Venture Electronics (VE) Zen V2 - Reviews
Pros: sounds like headphones. great natural sound and soundstage.
Cons: they are in a shell of earbuds still
Video review


INTRODUCTION

Because I am a neuroscience major, facts are important to me, so let me start by stating a fact. “earbuds are inferior to headphones in sound quality.” This is what reviewers out there that I respect (and that is only a small minority) believe and have tested. Now I will have so many shouting “snake oil” when I say stuff like the zen 2.0 and black is like headphones. On the other hand, I will have fanboys crush me with dislikes on video reviews of well known brands and it doesn’t take a negative review but just questioning the purpose or practicality of it. But I stand by my reviews. I will not bull crap what I hear. I do what I do because I love music and what it has done for me, I will never lie about music. So when I say “these are amazing, these sound like headphones,” instead of being skeptical and crush me with dislikes because I praised an earbud, try them out and then talk. Because I was just as skeptical as you were going into this.

DISCLAIMER

The zen 2.0 black was purchased by me for a discounted price and zen 2.0 normal was sent to me free of charge for comparison/review. My reviews will stay unbiased. After all, if someone sent you poop to review, will you be happy to give it a good review because it was for free or discounted price?

ABOUT VENTURE ELECTRONICS

This company does something that no other company has ever done and that is to admit that perfection may not be feasible. This is true in many cases but not many companies come out and say it. This company is honest from the root. They also carry the same mindset as us AUDIO-MANIACS “We will never stop striving for perfection.” They do 3 things to strive for perfection:

  1. They want to break the notion of EXPENSIVE = BETTER SOUND. They strive to make great sounding products for best value possible
  2. Creating products that are inexpensive but does not sacrifice build or sound quality
  3. Creating positive and honest relationship with their costumers and fans by creating products that they themselves would be proud to use
With that being said, VE’s presence in the HI-end audio does not fall behind. VE is the first to introduce hi-end earbuds, which is priced for 358usd with premium cardas cable and the first in the world to introduce true balanced portable amp with full spec desktop connector. which is the ra2.0b.

Does this sound like a great company to you? I am normally not impressed with company descriptions but I was inspired by how they kept it so REAL, HONEST, and most importantly shared their PLANS & how they will achieve it with us.

This is the company description that I wrote way back when I first bought their monk plus to review it and until this day, I stand by it.

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

zen 2.0 & Black

Style Earbuds

Communication Wired

Connectors AUX

Vocalism Principle Dynamic

Plug Type L Bending

Sensitivity 108dB(1mW)

Frequency Response Range 16-23000Hz

Line Length 1.2m

Resistance 320Ω

Time on market 2015



WHERE DO I BUY IT?

You can buy it directly from their website: https://www.veclan.com

TALKING WITH THE OWNER & COSTUMER SERVICE

I deal with a lot of companies but venture electronics have been the most pleasant experience for me. I purchase a lot of things from them and it is also true that they send me a lot of the stuff for review and I am open about it, there is no secrets. But I also have not seen a single complaint about their products and costumer service. Venture electronics is on their way to create their brand name and is very cautious, yet take pride in their work. They also do not send review units like crazy, I had to prove myself as a good reviewer. But as pleasant as Wild Lee is as an individual, he is a no bull crap type of person and so am I. My reviews are all honest and if he ever creates crap, I will tell him he did. Because that is what I believe “respecting” is. Like I said in my Bio, company’s Have a choice to fix it or **** it.

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ZENS

Zen 2.0 Black was first introduced along with runabout 2.0 amps for the perfect matching sound signature they were going for. Zen 2.0 normal was introduced later on to reduce the cost for those who wanted to try out the Zen 2.0. I will be reviewing their top of the line runabout amp, the RA2B soon and not to spoil anything but the zen 2.0 black sound far superior paired up with their own choice of amps than other amps like the Schiit Jotunheim.

BUILD QUALITY

The build quality of both the zen 2.0 and the black is an earbud shell with different cables than the original monk plus or the asura 2.0. The zen 2.0 comes in a descent red cable that gives a signature look to the zen 2.0. It’s bigger brother comes in premium cardas cables with neutrik terminations.

The zen 2.0 black’s cardas cables have a springy nature to them but I found them to be premium to the touch and less problematic than what is claimed by the owner himself.

Also If you are ever worried about breaking your earbuds, because they are earbud build quality, I never broke anything from venture electronics but I believe they have a life time warranty when you buy certain things from them. You are able to reach Wild Lee (owner of venture electronics) on my discord or on facebook. If you are still worried about costumer service, see below.

PRACTIALLY

THE FIT: They fit as well as the monk plus fits. I do not recommend putting foams on these as it muddies the sound a bit. If you are used to foams, then this may make the fit on the zen looser, but they also have other hook style or donut size one that does not cover the hole where the sound is coming out.

SOUND ISOLATION: These are earbuds and they do not have sound isolation as part of the deal but they did seal well in my ears, enough to make them not leak too much sound. However, sound leaking into your earbuds will not be preventable

PAIRING: These are 320 ohms and that is 20 ohms more than the HD650s, which is a headphone. You need an amp to drive them properly. You can drive these with phones or digital audio players quite well but will not sound right…. at all. It will sound lean or muddied.

SUGGESTED USE: Use them at home if you can, or use a portable amp.

SOUND QUALITY

LOWS – Surprisingly I am not able to make a claim that earbuds are not good for bass here. These have bass and to even a bigger surprise, they have tighter bass than most headphone or IEMS. But of course, these do not compare to headphones with actual big bass or even that of the HD650s. They have a bass response closer to a non bassy headphone. Also extended more than I expected. Overall, the sound signature of the zens offer more or less of a warmer sound due to the excellent presence around these frequencies. In summary, Quality bass but lacks in quantity compared to full sized headphones or IEMs. Also another thing to note it that the zen 2.0 black has a cleaner sound overall and thus “seems” like there is more bass impact and control. Drums sound more realistic and natural on the black as well, but I can’t confirm this as I play electrical drum in my basement.

MIDS – Now I cannot confirm that the drums sound realistic but I have a guitar and saxophone that I can just play a bit to confirm, and I did just that. Zen 2.0 Black sounds like the real instruments rather than notes. More balanced and cleaner than the zen 2.0 normal but both have excellent presentation in this region. Enough to please the most demanding acoustic addicts. The vocals are perfect and wet sounding, a little closer to that of the HD800s vocals. Although HD800s is nothing like the zens, the vocal presentation was more similar to the HD800s than the HD650s. This means more shouty vocal presence for the lack of better words. In conclusion, both female and male vocals sound excellent and most present with echoes/lip smacks.

HIGHS – While listening to 2-pac’s Skandalous, a classic combination of sub bass, bass and cymbals, I was surprised at how well the zen and the black both presented the highs in detail. However the highs are a bit further away and may seem rolled off like the HD650s.

SOUNDSTAGE/IMAGING/SEPARATION:

  • Soundstage similar in both zens
  • Imaging is better on the zen 2.0 Black
  • Separation is better on the zen 2.0 Black


FINAL THOUGHTS

I wrote this review after my video review came out. At first, I was hard pressed to this earbud the first award. In fact, I wanted to wait until something more incredible came to give out an award. We did not wanted to award every headphone out there and create the notion that we praise everything as #1. But I will go with my heart on this one. The Zen 2.0 black will be awarded the best earbud until a better earbud replaces its place.
rangachari
rangachari
Honest review. That's true VE ZEN 2.0 black is perfect with RA amp. With this I have decided to sell my rig Chord Mojo + VE ZEN 2.0 normal + iPhone CCK, all together for $450. If anyone interested, pls do let me know. The combo is 3 months old.
Pros: Great mids and highs
Cons: Need a good amp to bring the bass kick out

Introduction

The Zen V2 came unexpectedly to my doorstep, and since I had 0 experience with any earbuds, I decided to give it a run, and see if it can do any good, and boy was I in for a surprise!
 

Sound

My package came in a trimmed down straight off packaging, so I'll skip that and talk sound.
 

Treble / High notes

The high notes are crispy and clear, much like some of the better made IEMs out there, high hats and strums can be heard clearly in the background but not overwhelming. It doesn't over kill and irritate the sensation for long term listening. Clean cut and sweet, something unexpected out of an earbud.
 

Mids / Vocals

The mids are really good, in sight that these are earbuds, things can't get any better than this. VE has hit a high note on performances of the vocals and differentiation between female vocals and male vocals. They coherent nicely but distinguishable very clearly. Background support singer and main singer has different layering. Echo doesnt travel far though, so i find it more suitable for studio vocal albums.
 

Bass 

I find that having bass on earbuds is already special enough, but then I do have to nitpick here, and say the bass doesn't have volume to it. It's thin and hits like a ball hitting the floor, short and ends fast. If the music has bass drag, like beyonce song Drunk in Love, you will be disappointed. Don't expect an earbud to do good in here, cause, well, earbuds (i guess).
 

Soundstage

The soundstage and positioning in the earbud is surprising. It can cleanly cut left to right on a high pace, but can also do a slight slant to each position, like slight left mid to right slight mid. Soundstage echo is decent, but can't be said to be wide. At least it applies the effect the music maker intended, but can't scale it.
 

Setup

Below is my setup for reference
[@AuneAudio] S6 Desktop DAC + AMP to ifi iUSB to PC (XMOS driver applied)
20170318_0005071.jpg
 

Conclusion

Overall, I am surprised of the earbud and hence, I will say that this is one hell of an earbud. Despite the little details like lesser bass, I will recommend people this earbud, cause why the hell not get an epic earbud to impress.
Pros: These are incredibly versatile Earbuds! Sound stage! sound quality! and to be honest . Incredible comfort!
Cons: NONE!
First here are the specs of these bad boys! and yes you will need an amp to see these shine! 
SPECS
  1. Driver: 15.4mm Single Dynamic 
  2. Rated Impedance: 320 Ω @ 1kHz
  3. Frequency Range: 15 ~ 23500 Hz (-10dB)
  4. Sensitivity: 106 dB @ 1mW
  5. Cable: 1.2m TPE-sheathed OFC
  6. Plug: 3.5mm gold-plated L-plug 
  7. MSRP: $148
 
Now first off I am no audio freak but I love good quality audio! I am also a gamer so what these did for me was beyond my expectations! 
 
I had the opportunity to use these with a large variety of Audio interfaces, DACS, and amps. 
in those I have
 
Hardware I used to test.:
LG V20( which did an amazing job at powering these!), Aune S6, Violectric V200, Nuforce HA200, Dragon Fly 1.5.Onkyo TX-SR606. 
 
Can That I used to compare:
 
HD558, HD600, Philips SHP9500, Vmoda M100's, B&O H3, AKG Q701, DT990 pro. MONK PLUS!
 
The VE ZEN!
DSC_0358.jpg
 
I have the Balanced version! I have to say these are outstanding.
 
Sound Quality
 
First off let me say that the sound signature that can best describe these are the HD600's. The Zen are just incredibly Balanced. I loved these. 
 
These have a warm sound. These are also very articulate. For being ear buds, they have an amazing soundstage. 
I have heard an amazing amount details in my music. All of my music is loss less  format. Even sounded amazing while playing my LP's.
If you have never heard HD600's. These are very neutral Very warm.. and punch WAY beyond their asking price. To me this is the perfect balanced headphone. Needless to say these are worth every penny.
 
INCREDIBLY AMAZING FOR GAMING!. These and the monks are probably my favorites for gaming.. These more than the monks due to them being balanced..
 
The Zen Balance allowes me to hear footsteps from very very far away. My main game was CSGO and Rainbow Six Siege.
 
 
 
To Summarize thoughts I will say this.. These shined the most on my V200 amp but that is my most expensive amp.. The AUNE S6 Did these incredible Justice!. My LG v20 Surprisingly powered these incredibly with no problem. The Dragon Fly 1.5 had some issue's powering these and the sound staged did not go well with the Dragon Fly.
 
None the less these are flawless and I cannot wait to see what these guys at https://www.veclan.com/ have to offer!.. 
 
If you guys have any tests or any questions about these please dont hesitate to ask me.
 
CAUTION THESE HEADPHONES ARE EXTREMELY ADDICTIVE. If you are a true Audiophile. There is no reason to not have these. I must emphasize that these are just incredible. I purchased 2 just incase something happens.
Pros: Tight and controlled bass, lush and incredible midrange, comfortable treble, vast soundstage, sound more akin to a full-sized headphone than an earbud
Cons: 320 Ohms so it requires amping, wait time as it ships from China, cannot be covered due to drastic sound changes, no neck adjustment, sound leakage

 
Background
 
When was the last time you used a pair of earbuds? Perhaps you use your Apple Earpods at work to remain inconspicuous, or maybe you are one of the many who have purchased the VE Monk out of curiosity and adhere to that. I have reviewed the latter before and added my declaration of its stellar sound quality for a low price to the many, many impressions that have made their way online in the past year or so. I consider the Monks to be a great marketing tool along with being a great product, it generates interests in the capabilities of Venture Electronics and their engineering.
 
Why did we all leave earbuds? I remember my own reasoning. I had equated the mediocre sound quality of earbuds with my Sony Walkman from the 1990s, when I had used cheap Sony and Panasonic ones. They emitted sound, and my younger self was happy with that. I abandoned earbuds for good when I bought my first Sennheiser PX-100 and Sennheiser CX95 and never looked back.
 
The Monks changed that earlier this year, in a big way. The soundstage, the quality of the mids and the clarity sold to me the potential of earbuds again. I eyed the Zen, priced at $148 on AliExpress in its basic form, and wondered what could be achieved. As the meme from the film Inception went, I had to go deeper.
 
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Specifications
 
Plug Type: L Bending
Communication: Wired
Connectors: 3.5mm
Resistance: 320Ω
Frequency Response Range: 8-25000Hz
Line Length: 1.2m
Sensitivity: 120±5dB
 
 
Build & Features
 
The Zen is comprised of the same exact shell in use by the Asura 2.0 and the Monk Plus. It is made of a transparent plastic casing with the drivers clearly visible underneath. The main visible attribute separating the three earbuds is that the Zen has a transparent cable with the red wiring showing underneath – whereas the other two have the standard black rubber wire. I appreciate that the cable is as sturdy as that of the original monk, thick (double) in length and not abrasive to the touch. I find that it does not tangle easily, which is always a big plus with smaller earphones and earbuds.
 
Beyond that, I would describe the design as “no thrills.” I have neutral feelings towards the earbuds themselves when it comes to aesthetics, simply because it is not advertising any sense of design and because it is not dictating audience perception due to its looks. To the untrained eye, these look like sturdy but cheap earbuds and that is that. Make no mistake, the Zen’s casing and appearance is not for the followers of headphone porn, but rather simply just a shell for the wonders lying inside. These wonders and characteristics cannot be merely gazed upon, but have to be heard to be believed.
 
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The VE Zen 2.0 Black Edition however is a slightly different affair. It consists of the same earbud shell and casing design but with a vastly different (braided) cable and, depending on your choice, termination. According to the listing on AliExpress, the default model of the Black Edition terminated in a 3.5mm straight plug from Oyaide. Other options are 2.5mm balanced, 3.5mm balanced, XLR Neutrik and a 3.5mm in an L-shape. The cable itself is a Cardas Golden Selection AWG 26.5 and any of these configurations will cost $358. Based on appearance alone, the Black Edition has a significantly more premium look to my basic Zen. Beyond appearance, I cannot comment because I have not had the chance to hear one.
 
I have heard of some experiencing slight fit and comfort issues with the size of the casings that Venture Electronics use. I personally do not face many problems, but I do admit that they benefit from the addition of foam for in-ear traction. However, this is not quite feasible for the VE Zen for reasons I will mention later on in this review. Essentially, if you do not get an optimal fit then you will not obtain the optimal sound – the full potential of the Zen. I am confident that this will fit most people however.
 
 
Sound
 
It can be safely said that most of us here share the goal of obtaining a quality of audio that satisfies our needs. The spectrum for this is vast, with those happily discovering and using the likes of the Audio-Technica M-50X to those searching far and wide for their favourite amplifier for a Sennheiser HD800. It continues into the land of electrostatics and DAC/AMP systems as large as video-cassette players stacked on top of one another. Our experience, as well as my own, may have caused us to disregard some products – if not downright scoff at others. I admitted earlier that I was biased against earbuds until I heard the VE Monk, but now I have another conundrum. It is hard for me to view the VE Zen 2.0 as an earbud.
 
This will doubtlessly sound ridiculous. If it looks like an earbud, feels like an earbud, has the same length cable as a standard earbud, can be used as a lasso to capture cockroaches like a standard earbud and can be stepped on by your clumsy feet if you aren’t careful (destroying them forever with a sickening crunching sound) then of course they are an earbud right? Well, yes and no. Yes it has all the physical characteristics of an earbud, but it does not sound like one – at least to me.
 
Another strange claim, an earbud that does not sound like an earbud. I will seek to explain this by simply saying that this sounds like a full-sized pair of open headphones. I had no notion that sound like this could be achieved in the confines of an inexpensive plastic earbud shell, and I was shocked on first listen. There is a body to the sound that does not sound unnatural or forced in any sense. It effortlessly reproduces music as a full-sized can would, but without the band around your head.
 
The bass of the Zen is very controlled and disciplined, but present enough to add a good punch and warmth to music. It does not extend incredibly low, but does delve deep enough to be satisfying for most genres of music. Instruments like 1980s synth bass sound just as they should on the Zen, as well as kick drums in rock music. The warmth of the bass and lower mids also lends to the lifelike recreation of acoustic guitar recordings, one of my favourite aspects to listen for when I listen to a new headphone/earphone/earbud. EDM and electropop music will not shine on the Zen however, it does not provide the sub-bass required to make those genres sound whole. For literally anything else, you can turn to this comfortably.
 
It should be noted the Zen is less flexible than the other earbuds by Venture Electronics. Where I could modify my Monk Plus with two foams as well as a ring, any material placed on the Zen will drastically alter the sound – often to the point of stuffiness. The Zen, with its body and warmth, is tuned specifically for naked use. I found that even the usage of the earhooks impacted the optimal fit a bit, although that could be just for my ear shape. Bottom line is, if you want to experience the Zen with all of its strengths, don’t cover it up with even the thinnest of foam.
 
The mids are the highlight. They are what you will reach over to pick these up for. They are also the aspect that is most like a full sized set of cans, and ones which from my memory sound like the Sennheiser HD600. They are warm and sweet. They have a lot in common with the mids of the original Monk, although not as forwarded and far more articulate and detailed. It would be strange to just simply say that vocals shine on the Zen, but they do. It would also be odd to say that instruments, particularly guitars, shine on the Zen – but they do and in abundance. Make no mistake, the original Monk, Monk Plus and Asura 2.0 all have impeccable midrange representation, but they all pale in comparison to the sheer juicy steak that is the Zen 2.0. To hear such a natural, clear and full-bodied sound from an earbud is an incredible achievement in audio engineering and design.
 
The treble is never sibilant but does well with intricate cymbal patterns. There is some air, although not as much as the Asura 2.0 with its brighter sound signature. I find it to be a satisfactory level of detail, extension and comfort – quite similar to the treble of the Meze 99 Classics in terms of how it doesn’t fail to impress nor does it cross the line.
 
The soundstage is vast and the imaging is spot on, although slightly less immediate than the Monk Plus. I’m chalking this down to the warmer nature of the Zen. Listening to binaural recordings on the Zen sounds lifelike and satisfactory. The soundstage is similar to the other earbuds in VE’s range, which I am guessing has to do with the shell design. Live recordings sound truly live and panning instruments in recordings go from 0 to 100 effortlessly and clearly.
 
Overall, this is what you are paying for. The sound has to be heard to be believed. This is problematic because of the ordering process, through AliExpress and Venture Electronics own website, and its long ship time. If you get the chance to demo these (at a meet or through an acquaintance), absolutely do so. I invited a friend over to try them out, a long time user of the original Monk and now the Monk Plus, and he absolutely confirmed the jump in quality from the $5 wonder to the $148 juggernaut.
 
Amping
 
320 ohms. That is the impedance of the VE Zen. This is another thing I would have never thought necessary or possible a year ago, the idea of needing an amplifier for earbuds. The Zen is quite hungry and can benefit from some clean amping. Plugged directly into my phone yielded nothing satisfactory in both quality and volume. Plugged into my friend’s Ibasso DX90 proved to be a far better fit, with some amping taking place to bring out the power of the Zen. An actual amp is absolutely necessary however, and I tried all three of mine with it.
 
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Schiit Magni 2
 
Added volume and drive to the sound, as it should, but felt like it was a touch too harsh in nature. The snare in songs had a thudding sound to it for some reason.
 
20160505_165557.jpg
 
Cavalli Liquid Carbon
 
Great sound quality, but a sense of colour that cannot be shaken due to the amp’s own warm sound signature. Also lessened the shimmering detail in the mids and treble a slight amount compared to the third option.
 
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VE RunAbout Plus
 
It makes sense the VE’s own amplifier, in a portable size, is far beyond being adept at powering their highest-end earbud. It is a happy medium between the sweetness and warmth of the Liquid Carbon and the neutrality and bite of the Magni 2. On top of that, its small form factor and battery-powered option makes it a great addition to portable setups. The thought of the Zen in public might seem counterproductive due to its very open and sound-leaking nature, but it is still an enticing thought – made possible by the RunAbout Plus.
 
 
Conclusion
 
Once again, my eyes have been opened by a product sold by Venture Electronics. First I had learned to love earbuds again, but now I have been purely amazed. Whatever small disadvantages that the Zen has do not hold a candle to the level of sound quality achieved through such a small and easily-overlooked physical design. I could recommend this to anyone, as long as they have an amp, and look forward to what the company concocts next.
 
As for the overall design itself, the KISS Principle comes to mind: “Keep it simple, stupid.” It is with that mindset that the Zen shines.
 
 
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Song Impressions
 
Equipment used: Foobar200 WASAPI Event > Schiit Wyrd > Schiit Gungnir USB Ver. 2 > Venture Electronics RunAbout Plus.
All tracks in lossless FLAC in at least 16/44.1
 
 
Aerosmith – Dream On (2012 Remaster)
 
Great benefit of the soundstage from the get-go, with the guitar tracks separated clearly with the string section squarely in the middle. Vocals have a lot of weight to them. Drums have impact and bass is clear and present.
 
a-ha – Take On Me
 
Besides how great the 80s synths and vocals sound, I always listen for the subtle acoustic guitar playing in the background. It has come out well with the ZMF Omni and the Meze 99 Classic, and now with the Zen too.
 
Black Sabbath – Planet Caravan
 
Soundstage and imaging galore with the percussion parts comfortably panning from channel to channel while the clarity of the vocals, guitar (on the right channel) and bassline continue on.
 
Prince – Controversy
 
A song that showcases punchy sound signatures in audio gear as it marches along at a steady pace. The clarity is such that the guitar on the right channel and the “oomph” vocal sample that repeats is clear and lifelike.
 
Chris Isaak – Wicked Game
 
A natural warm sound representation of a delicate and subdued track, instrumental wise. The clean guitar layers perfectly on top of the acoustic guitar as Isaak croons on. I fully appreciate how the slight “this world is gonna break your heart” female backing vocal line is clearer than most gear I have tested.
 
Clint Mansell – Lux Aeterna
 
There is more of a low-end to the string section than on the Monk Plus, giving it the body I described in my review. The overall presentation of the song sounds more cinematic in nature.
 
Coldplay – Clocks
 
Vocals and guitars are audible on top of the repeating piano riff, with every little sound flourish represented accurately. Martin’s harmonization is natural and clear too.
 
Eminem – Without Me
 
While the instruments and vocals sound great, I can’t help but feel like something is missing with the bassline and drums, lacking the rap-loving impact that headphones like the TH-X00 have. That is not a fair comparison however, and the soundstage really aids as the layering of the rap tracks can be clearly heard.
 
Fleetwood Mac – Dreams
 
Warmth and body infuse this track, with the cymbal hit on the right side moving just slightly more toward the right than most headphones I have. Vocals are extremely clear, bass is clear and with body and the acoustic guitar is lifelike. Vocal harmonies gel effortlessly.
 
Metallica – The Unforgiven
 
The incredible production on this track shines with the likes of the VE Zen. Every guitar note is just so clear, with the low end control of the Zen aiding the chugging guitars greatly too. All while the drums thunder on and James Hetfield’s vocal growls on.
 
Lana Del Ray – Summertime Sadness
 
First impression was how incredible the string section sounded. This is a cinematic track in both instrumental and vocal performance, and the Zen does incredibly well with it. The vast soundstage also aids the wall-of-sound production.
 
Led Zeppelin – The Battle of Evermore
 
The intro creeps up in a lifelike manner, as if someone was slowly turning up the volume of a live setting. The layered guitars and mandolins are represented greatly by the Zen, as is Robert Plant’s vocal work.
 
Marcin Przybyłowicz – The Fields of Ard Skellig
 
The Celtic vocals blossom over a mandolin and delicate instrumental, making this peaceful piece shine on the Zen. Nothing feels lacking, with the soundstage separating all instruments properly.
 
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
 
Complex vocal harmonies? No problem for the Zen at all. Everything sounds balanced and pleasing, particularly the famous middle section – panning expertly with the vast soundstage.
 
Ramin Djawadi – Light of the Seven
 
This haunting track is well served by the Zen, with the piano and string section ringing clearly. The choir vocals that come in as the song builds up is clear, transitioning into the cinematic sound that the Zen handles so well.
phobos04
phobos04
Hi, 
nice review :)
As I mainly use Spotify Premium for my listening sessions, I've just "used" your test songs to create a spotify playlist. I'm testing my VE Monk plus with those songs.
Hope you enjoy it :)
zorilon
zorilon
I wonder how it sounds paired with an Audioquest Dragonfly Red?
WayTooCrazy
WayTooCrazy
I'm waiting on my standard Zen 2.0 in Balanced form and my Monk Espresso in Balanced to show up. Will be a fun listen. I already own 2 pairs of Monks (modded).
Pros: Sound quality, mids, comfort, cable
Cons: bass, not tuned for foams, build
I will use the review I posted on reddit here: https://www.reddit.com/r/headphones/comments/4o1i03/the_surprisingly_fantastic_venture_electronics_zen/
 
First things first: Why earbuds? I like earbuds because they are so practical and easy to use, Pop 'em in your ear and you're good to go. No headphone hair, no fussing about with a seal (for the most part) and once they're in I can't even feel them. After getting the monk I was really curious about the Zen so when I saw it for a great price on head-fi I took the dive. I got the Zen 2.0, Asura 1.0, all the accessories and then some for £65. A pretty fantastic deal.

Accessories: These come with loads of foams and stuff to try and alter the sound/fit to your liking. Included is also some earhoox-type things and a great carry case (which can be found here.) Unfortunately, these sound best with not foams or other fittings, so it's kind of a waste I guess.

Build: Kind of disappointing really, but I'm also not sure where it could be improved. Shells are plastic, cable very strong and good looking although a bit grippy (but never seems to tangle) and personally I can't stand 45 degree jacks so there's that. The shells being plastic keep the weight down and comfort up and the cable is of a high quality, they just feel insubstantial for the asking price is the problem.

 
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Sound: this is the most important part and where these earbuds really live up to their hype. The general sound signature is on the bassy/warm/thick side, giving them a forgiving, natural presentation that is very easy to listen to for long periods of time. 

Mids are my favourite part of the Zen's sound. Vocals are incredibly lifelike, no thinness or forward upper mids like the MSR7s and not recessed like the Fidelio L1. Really can't fault them at all.

Bass is where things perhaps fall apart a little. Bass doesn't extend low enough for any real rumble, it's all mid bass. This isn't noticeable in most music but if you are a fan of electronic then you'll definitely be missing out on a good portion of low end. On the up side mid bass is fantastically tight and raised in level giving them a slightly more fun sound. What I find most impressive is that I am not using any foams with these, so there is no seal. How the driver manages this kind of bass with zero seal is beyond me and very impressive. This does make me think however, wouldn't it be better to tune the driver to be used with foams, so you can have the bass extension and comfort? Btw if you use foams with these bass is too overbearing and not very good sounding to my ear.

Treble: Probably the worst part of these earphones. Has sever ringing what can be very bothersome. Definite room for improvement here.Highs are a little muddy but free of sibilance and harshness completely. They don't sound quite as smooth as the highs on my MSR7s nor as detailed, however. 

Soundstage/imaging is what you'd expect for a full sized open headphone. Soundstage is large and out of you head, which combined with the precise imaging makes these great gaming earbuds.

All in all these are fantastic buds. A little overpriced, but given the lack of other competent earbuds it is likely worth the extra cash. 

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Pros: Excellent Sound
Cons: 320 Ohm is no joke; Cable can be annoying; Generic design

 
Full review of the Asura 2, Zen 2 & Duke here:
http://www.head-fi.org/t/809154/review-venture-electronics-ve-asura-2-0-zen-2-0-duke-a-new-path-to-high-end-sound
 
Sound:
 
 
The Zen 2 with its very high impedance of 320ohm, but only half of that number in price, is competing directly with any truly top-tier earphone out there, with a slight yet pleasant analytical tilt on it.


The low end of the Zen 2 is very accurate and controlled and yet large in dimensions. As what a typical high-end dynamic driver earphone should be, the bass is detailed and very clean, very well textured and not missing in body or fullness. Notes are presented in very solid way and good depth immense and hardly rolled-off for being 'just en earbud' and there is no sign of bass bloat. Not being easy to drive, speed is a little dependant on the source power, but feels rather natural when well matched. On a strong amplifier as the HDB or AMP-S overall speed is great without losing in bass control yet achieving more body and a more realistic note, neither thick or bloated nor overly quick and thin; pretty much perfect in terms of balance.
Unlike most earbuds, the Zen 2 has plenty impact and bass quantity, especially with foam pads, without getting overwhelming and with a presentation that is very easy to like.
While the 'no foam' setup might be considered as a more 'Reference sound’, the addition of foam pads (either donut or regular) shows an increased impact and a warmer, more consumer-friendly sound. For some more critical listeners this addition could also reduce the fantastic transparency of this little earbud and give up some of the texture for a smoother and weightier sound, but won't affect much the overall treble extension. Either way, the Zen 2 is not exactly to be called 'flat' in response, rather it should be referred as a 'full' sounding earphone on every response, and that's where its main strength lies. For the 'purist' listeners the no-foam setup (maybe with the included fins installed for more secure fit) should be the best option for the Zen 2, but as an all-arounder and a bit more friendly or less compromising sound, the donut pad would be the right option.

The midrange of the Zen 2 is excellently well balanced, rather neutral, well weighted on the lower frequencies and with a slight gain towards the top region. This flagship wins in terms of dynamics and fullness with a high resemblance to full size cans when wisely amped. Bass bleed is nonexistent and the added smoothness is very impressive. The Zen 2 is slightly smoother and more lush than the Asura 2, but even though much closer to the Asura 2 in terms of brightness than to the Asura 1 which is the warmer, more musical and easy going among the three. Clarity is top notch, as well as resolution, and even the smallest bit of micro detail is not missing, but not very aggressive as a more analytical set can be, which allows the earphone to remain extremely refined and liquid. As for tonality, the mids are a touch on the warm side with a slight extra aggressiveness, which can get a tad shouty if poorly/wrongly matched, synergy-wise. Expectedly, that realism and articulation will depend mostly on the source.


In the upper registers, the Zen 2 has a bit of emphasis towards the upper midrange and lower treble but manages to keep its top end in control better than the Asura 2 or the Hifiman Compact (Yuin like) do. Not a hot treble, but definitely energetic; a well done and refined treble that doesn't give up in crispness or resolution, plenty of sparkle and very good in sense of air and separation. Never being harsh or sibilant, although over long listening sessions, the Zen 2 can be a little more fatiguing than an old Yuin PK1 for its extra fuller energy. Actually there's a bit less upper treble tilt compared to the SoundMagic HP200 which could be reported as tiresome for some listeners. Interestingly, despite being a tad smoother the top end extension is higher than the Asura 2 and (even more than the PK1). It'd be hard to call the Zen 2 a 'revealing' earphone as it first needs to be well powered to reach its fullest strength, but definitely should fall under the 'transparent' category.

The presentation of the Zen 2 is lively and energetic and manages to show a very musical and rich (though not laid-back) sound. Soundstage is quite the widest among all earbuds, sounding nothing like an earbud but as a large headphone in terms of dimensions, which is very spacious, airy, and open. The Zen 2 timbre may not be the most natural, and while still much better than both the Asura and Hifiman Compact, I could still prefer the PK1 in just that single regard. Paired with a warmer source like the HDB, it gets slightly more laid-back letting a fuller/thicker midrange, while with a Cayin C5D it gets much brighter and energetic. For instance, the Amp-S is very well suited for the Zen 2, as in spite of its analytical and highly detailed character, it can show the best of the Zen side without giving up to a specific frequency.
All-in-all it is a signature that is equally balanced, full and well-rounded, very realistic and capable of showing a three-dimensional and immersive presentation with one of the largest soundstage hidden inside of a small earbud shell.
Pros: Sound quality, build, value, soundstage, design
Cons: L/R markings hard to see, Foams distort the sound too much, Experimenting with different positions needed to get the best fit
Venture Electronics Zen 2.0 Review
ZENApril122016.jpg
 
 
 
Introduction & test notes
 
I am just a simple music loving person. I don't consider myself to have golden ears or whatsoever but do like my music detailed as possible under a jobless student's budget. My music preference is varied, but I do not fancy modern pop.

I am not a bar & graphs person, try to keep my reviews as simple as possible.

This is my first five star review and my second review coming from Venture Electronics products. I was given an opportunity to review the Zen 2.0 by Lee. This review is my honest opinions on the Zen and I gain nothing from it. I am in no way affiliated with Venture Electronics.

 
Always remember that your experiences might be different because this is a very subjective matter and depends on numerous factors, eg. ear anatomy.

 
Gears used:

I have used Fiio’s portable DAC/AMP Q1 for this review. It was set on High gain, with hardware bassboost disabled. Aimp v4 was the player of choice on both PC & Android, EQ was disabled.
Laptop>Fiio Q1> Zen 2.0
Android device>Usb OTG> Fiio Q1> Zen 2.0
Ipod touch 4th gen> lod> Q1> Zen 2.0
ZENApril122016-14.jpg    
 
About Product:
This is the second iteration of VE’s flagship earbud lineup. The Zen comes in a few variants; Standard edition( the one I am reviewing 148$), Balanced edition with terminations of your choice (178$) and the decked out Black edition equipped with  Cardas AWG 26.5 cable and Oyaide straight 3.5mm connector (358$).*
 
ZENApril122016-6.jpg
*Prices at the time of review
 
 
 
Product Specifications(From their website www.veclan.com)
  1. Plug Type:L Bending
  2. Impedance:320ohm
  3. Connectors:3.5mm
  4. Frequency Response Range:8-25000 Hz
  5. Package:Yes
  6. Line Length:1.2m
  7. Sensitivity:120±5dB



 
Now let’s dive into the good stuff

 
Build:
The housings are made of dark-grey transparent plastic with vents on the sides.
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The internals can be seen through the housing and this gives the earbuds an unique look. Cables continue the transparent trend of the shells, see-through rubber coat showcases the braided red cables on the standard edition.
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Cable itself is well made with very low microphonics
 
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There are no chin sliders , the Y-split being a rectangular black rubber block.
     ZENApril122016-4.jpg
 
 
 
The connector plug is the same ones found in the VE Duke IEM, which is very reliable with proper strain relief.
 
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The connector here is a L-bend 3.5mm gold plated jack.
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My biggest gripe will be the L/R markings which is very hard to see/feel when you’re hurrying.
 
Overall the build feels very sturdy and you can make it last a long long time if you’re just a little careful.

ZENApril122016-3.jpg
Comfort:
I last used earbuds in 2012, it was a cheap creative bud with rubber rings, it was okay. But the Zen is all plastic, with no rubber/soft materials on the sides. Due to my ear anatomy, I felt discomfort wearing the buds for more than 30 minutes at stretch. You can use the supplied foam/ear hooks for better comfort out of the box, but it alters the sonic signature(more on that later).  But after a months use my ears have adjusted to the chronic irritation and I feel very comfortable wearing them. Zen’s are lightweight and you will barely notice them in your ears.
 
Isolation:
You can compare the Zen with open back headphones. So, they leak out sound and sound/noise from the outside gets in. This might be a blessing and a curse depending on your situation. This brings me to write a small segment on daily usage scenarios which I think should help the readers.
 
Everyday usage:
Commute: I used the Ipod>Q1 combo for portable use when travelling.  Even though it noise gets in, you can cancel out most of it by listening at higher volumes. People speaking beside you will become less prominent, but you will be able to hear the horns/sirens of vehicles. That means you can use the zens on a busy street knowing that you won't get hit by that car which was honking from miles away. The music mixing in with the ambient noises will give your life that “background music” you always saw in movies. But the person sitting next to you will clearly hear your music tastes and will silently judge you.
 
Movies & Gaming: Excellent soundstage and separation means you can hear all those details in your movies in perfect L/R channels. You will be able to easily distinguish footsteps from nearby enemies amongst the chaos of your average FPS games, but don’t blame VE when you get kicked out of a server for knowing exactly where your enemies were hiding behind a wall (Yes, this happened).  
 
General Impressions: I handed it to a friend, he was awestruck with the sound it offered. After a 10 minute listening session all he could say was “ This sure doesn't look like a TOTL earbud, but man that SQ!
I gave it to my father and he was really impressed with the ZEN. After hearing the price he said with a smile that the cost is justifiable for something of this size producing such sound.

ZENApril122016-13.jpg
 
Sound:
THE SOUND DEPENDS A LOT ON THE FIT. IF YOU THINK THEY DO NOT SOUND AS THEY SHOULD, FIDDLE WITH THE FIT, ROTATE, NUDGE THE BUDS UNTIL YOU GET THE SOUND. YOU WILL NOTICE IT VERY WELL.
I found the 5’oclock psotion cable down to provide the best sound for my ears, YMMV. I was disappointed the first few hours with the sound, then I started adjusting the body and it sounded wonderful.
It will not be over exaggeration to say that the ZEN’s sound like full sized open back cans. The amount of clarity and details it provides is truly amazing for something of this size.  The ZEN 2.0 is an example of brilliant engineering  effort. You can find reviewers claiming these to be on the levels of HD650s , I will not go that far as I have not heard it myself, but I hardly use HD598SE after listening to the Zens. It is on par or exceeds the 598s in many scenarios which is both amazing and scary.  I will be describing the sound in 5 segments.
Without FOAMS/ Other accessories:
Highs: Gone are the harsh treble of the older zen. Highs have sufficient sparkle and detail to them without being harsh. You can hear the cymbals fading into lower frequencies after a hit.
Mids: Marvelous. Warm and balanced sounding mids bring string instruments to life. Vocals seem more intimate. On Adele’s Remedy, her voice seemed to creep up on me right from behind and surpsied me every time she let out those high pitched verses.
Lows: For me this is the peak attraction point of the buds. Unbelievable will be the right word to explain the quantity of bass coming out from these puny earbuds. Detailed, tight and overall resolution of the mid bass seem to make the 148$ price tag seem more than worth it. Sub bass does roll off but it doesn’t do so in a manner that disappoints.
Soundstage & Separation: Spacious soundstage, again similar to full sized headphones. Separation is excellent in well recorded files. Mushy recordings sounded mushy, binaural recordings placed every single instrument and vocals where they should be.
Vocals: Male & Female vocals are well balanced. Sibilance was minimal.
 
FOAMS :
Full Thick FOAMS/ Doughnut FOAMS: It make the bass more prominent but leaves negative effects on everything else. Mids sound recessed with. The little extra seal and comfort is not worth the sacrifices in the resolution. Zen’s were meant to use bare.
Thin FOAMS: Soundstage took a hit, making it a bit more cramped, but retained most of the characteristics when used bare. If it is necessary the thin foam coats can be used.

 
Power requirements:
Driving 320ohms is certainly not an easy task for your cellphones. You CAN use the ZENs with mobile devices but the output will simply be underwhelming. Plug it into your favourite DAC/Amp/DAP combo and hear the eargasms happen. Amping is necessary for it to perform it’s best. So, those who already have a good setup will certainly enjoy the buds a lot. It scales great with better sources and power.
 
Conclusion
The zen’s gave me  flashes of images of the overall environment of the tracks I adore. Kings of leon’s Tonight gave me that Late night drive on a desert highway feel.  While Future Island’s Fall from grace flashed an ambience of gloom and melancholy. This it truly something special, VE  might have made the masterpiece of Earbuds (Until they work their magic again).
I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to overhaul their listening-game or just want to be surprised. A new era of earbuds has begun.
ZENApril122016-2.jpg
BloodyPenguin
BloodyPenguin
Awesome work both with the written and photography.  
Podster
Podster
That's good stuff right there, great write up bolmeteus:wink:
bolmeteus
bolmeteus
Thank you mcreo, bloodypenguin and podster! :D
Pros: Incredibly dynamic & warm sound for an earbud, Fantastic timbre & resolution, Improved design and performance based on customer feedback, Free Monk!
Cons: Sound quality is dependent on fit and accessories, Earbuds aren't as widely accepted as other kinds of earphones, Needs amplification for best results
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At the time of the review, the VE Zen 2.0 was was on sale on their Aliexpress web store. Here is a link to their listing of the product:
 
http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/Venture-Electronic-VE-Zen-high-impedance-320-ohms-earbud/1924356_32302987270.html
 
Introduction
I would like to take this time to tell you a little bit about Venture Electronics.
 
VE was a start up company by a couple guys over in China. From what I’ve gathered the two main players behind all of this are Lee, and and someone who goes by the name of “KK.”
 
I started covering VE products by getting a review sample of the original Zen 1.0. If you haven’t read my review on them here is a link:
 
http://www.head-fi.org/products/venture-electronics-ve-zen/reviews/13680
 
Reviewing the VE Zen 1.0 changed my view on earbuds, well, it changed my perspective of Venture Electronics and what they can do with their earbuds in particular.
 
Now days when I come across any earbuds and have a chance to try them, I will. What I have realized by doing this is that while other earbuds can perform reasonably well, I still have yet to hear any that can combine the dynamics, detail and balance that VE can accomplish with their models. This goes for the Monk, The Zen 1.0, and now the Zen 2.0. In fact, I would go as far as saying I have yet to hear an earbud outside of the Zen lineup that sounds better than the five dollar Monk.
 
I really enjoyed the Zen 1.0, and still use it to this day. When I heard Lee was making an upgraded version of them, I knew I had to review them. There’s no way I was going to miss out on an upgraded Zen!
 
Disclaimer
I was given an opportunity to review the Zen 2.0 in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I am in no way affiliated with Venture Electronics. I would like to take this time to personally thank Lee for the opportunity. Lee, I love the marketing approach and no BS approach you take with customers. The audiophile community is a better place because of it!
 
My Background
I AM NOT a numbers and graphs audiophile or sound engineer. Personal audio enthusiast? Absolutely! Headphone junkie? Possibly…
 
There’s something about quality DAPs, DACs, Amplifiers and Earphones that intrigues me, especially if they can be had for low prices. I will buy the $5 to $500 earphone that looks promising, in hopes that I will discover that one new gem that can compete with the big names in this industry. If you look at my Head-Fi profile you will see that I have purchased MANY different headphones and earphones, ranging from from dirt cheap to higher end products. For me, this hobby is more about getting great price to performance ratio from a product, and have a variety of different gears with varying builds and sound to mix and match. With personal audio gear, we tend to pay a lot of money for minor upgrades. One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that just because a headphone has a higher price tag, it doesn’t mean that it has superior build and sound quality.
 
I’m always looking for great audio at a great price. I’m after headphones and IEMs that give me the “WOW” factor. I can appreciate different builds and sound signatures as long as they are ergonomic, and the sound is pleasing to the ear. It is my pleasure to share my experiences with audio products and make recommendations based gear I have owned and used.
 
REVIEW
The Zen arrived in a tough cloth covered clamshell case. There is no formal packaging that came with the sample I received.
 
Specifications and Accessories
 
Specifications
Type

Open dynamic earbud

Driver

Dynamic, 15.4mm

Frequency Range

15 Hz – 23.5 Khz

Impedance

320 ohm

Sensitivity

108dB (1mW)

Plug

3.5mm gold plated, straight jack

Cable

1.2m, TPE outer coat, 256 x 0.04 4n ofc copper

Weight

Approx 14g

IEM Shell

Polycarbonate / hard plastic


 
Accessories
1x pair of red foam discs
1x pair of red foam doughnuts
1x pair of silicone “earhoox” like silicone fins
1x shirt clip
1x zipper clamshell case
 
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VE offers pretty much everything you would need to make your Zen 2.0 fit. The new “earhoox”-like fins is a welcomed upgrade from the Zen 1.0.
 
Housings
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One of the negatives I stated about the original Zen 1.0 was the somewhat generic looking white housings. VE stepped things up, offering a translucent smoke tinted plastic housing. Their website 52ve.cn is printed on shell. I really like the way they improved on the design and went with translucent material, as it shows the craftsmanship and quality of components used in the Zen 2.0. Although I doubt the plastic housings would be able to withstand getting stepped on, they are a very sturdy build that will withstand the test of time if handled with a reasonable amount of care.
 
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NOTE: Venture Electronics has a new domain name, VECLAN.COM
 
Cable, Y-Split, Cable Jack, Strain Reliefs
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I love the Zen 2.0 cable. It is a clear rubber jacketed cable with a shiny red sheathing inside the jacketing that covers the multiple core copper cable. For a portable earphone I find it to be the perfect thickness and durability. Inspecting it under a light, I can see imperfections in the consistency of the red sheathing, which adds to the visual effect in my opinion. To my eyes it almost has the appearance of what an external vein flowing musical blood into user’s ear. It is actually two separate cables attached to one another, separating the signals from the jack all the way up to each channel.
 
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The Y-split is a small rubber block that determines where the cables split to go to each housing. The Jack is a ninety degree design with a gold plated 3.5mm jack and plastic/rubber jacketing. A black rubber strain relief comes from the jacketing and seems durable.
 
NOTE: There is other cable options than the one I have. There is a black braided cable version that is much pricier, and a balanced edition that uses the same red cable. In terms of what termination you need for your balanced setup, you can request it by messaging Lee from the questions feature on Aliexpress.
 
Functionality
There are three options in terms of cable options, none of which have a microphone and remote option. However, I’m sure if you contacted Lee about this he might be able to possibly help you out. As is, I don’t see any reason for a microphone and remote for two reasons. #1 The Zen 2.0 sounds better with an amplified source, and #2 The purpose of the Zen is to give the user the maximum audio experience. Most phones will not have the power to maximize the Zen 2.0 sound and would just get in the way of maximizing the 2.0 capabilities.
 
Ergonomics, Fit and Microphonics, Isolation
For an earbud they are pretty standard. They fit like any other earbud, and come with foam discs, doughnuts, earhooks and a shirt clip to suit whatever fitment you are trying to achieve. They manage microphonics very well, much better than average. Isolation isn’t great, just like any other earbud.
 
NOTE: The Zen 2.0 sound changes quite a bit depending on how you use them and what type of foam or accessory you use. I will go over this more in the sound review.
 
Sound Review
I did my demo with my usual gear. I used an LG-G3 with the latest firmware for portable and smartphone use, and either my Shanling H3 or Sony Walkman F806/Cayin C5 amplifier for a high fidelity portable use. For desktop use I used my Toshiba Satellite Laptop in combination with a HIFIMEDIY Sabre ES9023 USB DAC/Bravo Audio Ocean Tube amplifier with a Mullard 12AU7 tube for higher impedance, and a Fiio E18 USB DAC & Amplifier in both high and low gain. Both were run at 24 bit, 96000 Hz. I also tested them with other DAPs and amplifiers as well. I used Google Music downloaded in its highest download quality (320 KBPS) and I also streamed FLAC via Tidal streaming service. I also used purchased and downloaded tracks in MP3, FLAC, WAV and DSD. I make sure that any gear I test has sufficient playtime before writing a review.
 
I used my usual same songs for testing gear:
“Limit to your love” by James Blake (bass speed, punch, response)
“Doin’ it Right” by Daft Punk (sub bass)
“Get lucky” by Daft Punk (bass to midrange transition resolution, male vocals)
“Madness” by Muse (soundstage, separation)
“Some nights” by Fun (soundstage and male vocals)
“The soundmaker” by Rodrigo y Gabriela (texture and imaging)
“Bassically” by Tei Shi (bass to midrange resolution, female vocals)
“Skinny Love” performed by Birdie (female vocals, acoustic playback)
“One” by Ed Sheeran (male vocals, acoustic playback)
“Outlands” from the Tron Legacy Soundtrack (symphonic presentation, imaging)
“Sultans of swing” by Dire Straits (detail, separation, balance)
“And Justice for All” by Metallica (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
“Ten thousand fists” by Disturbed (driver distortion, treble response, rock playback)
 
Note: Other tracks were used, but the listed songs were primarily used to assess and break down the gear’s response.
 
Source Selection
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The Zen 2.0 seems slightly less power dependent than the original 1.0, but still needs something more powerful than the average smartphone to sound its best. They sound great with any portable amplifier or DAP on high gain. They were sublime in combination with my VE Runabout amplifier in high gain. Because of their power demands they will also work well with most desktop DACs and amplifiers. Zen 2.0 upscales well with higher bitrate files. Feed them DSD and FLAC files through your best amplified source and let the lifeblood of the Zen 2.0 sound satisfy your soul.
 
First things first, the anatomy of your ear combined with what type of accessories and fit you get with the Zen will determine your sound impressions. I will start the sound review with a brief explanation of my impressions with each accessory. Please remember I am going to do a brief description based on what sounds I got with my ears. Your mileage may vary. The only way to know is to try each accessory.  
 
“Earhoox”-like silicone fins- This was the most secure fit of all of the accessories, but also the worst sounding to my ears. I feel the Zen 2.0 needs either free air or foam to prevent bass resonance. The 2.0 sounded like a good earphone overshadowed by a resonant bass response with the fins.
 
Foam Discs- These gave a the 2.0 a warmer and bassier sound with an overall more intimate sounding signature.
 
Naked (No accessories)- This is arguably the best way to wear the Zen 2.0, and from what I experiences the closest sounding to the original 1.0 with foams. It is the leanest and most detailed of all wearing styles, and gave me the best sense of soundstage and instrument placement.
 
Foam Doughnuts (foam rings)- The rings were my favorite of all the options, offering a touch of warmth and bass from the discs, and also a little bit of the detailed and airy presence when worn naked. Because of this I will do my remaining sound review and comparisons based on this wearing style.
 
Sound Signature
The Zen 2.0 is a masterpiece. When I first heard VE was going to improve on the 1.0 model, I wasn’t sure how they were going to do it. Well they did and it is an all around better sounding earphone to my ears. Lee and KK listened to feedback from customers and reviewers. They made another phenomenal sounding earphone. I can enjoy the Zen as much as my favorite pairs of in-ear monitors and full size earphones.
 
NOTE: Remember, my impressions from here on out are based on using the foam rings. You can achieve a more linear and airy sound wearing them without foams or fins.
 
The Zen is warm tilted and bordering on me saying they’re somewhat bassy (which is weird for an earbud). Every frequency is very high resolution and has fabulous dynamics. Midbass and lower midrange tones play with incredible speed, texture and timbre. The upper midrange is relaxed and rolls into a crisp and non fatiguing top end. The PRAT from the original is still present with added warmth and dynamics. If the 1.0 is the Sennheiser HD600 of earbuds, the 2.0 is the HD650.
 
Bass
Bass tones are robust and responsive. Because they are earbuds there is a roll off starting at around 100Hz and seems to fall off the radar at about 35Hz. This doesn’t impact the overall feel of the earphones like anything is missing. The forward midbass of the Zen 2.0 is their biggest strength, providing a level of resolution and timbre that makes them world class.
 
Midrange
Zen 2.0 midrange is pretty warm, super responsive and in good balance with the sound signature. The lower midrange forwardness slowly rolls off into a relaxed upper midrange. Vocals finish with a relaxed feel while still seeming very natural. Lower to midrange notes are felt as well as heard. As with all frequencies, resolution is fabulous.
 
Treble
Treble is overall relaxed with a well placed spike, preventing them from seeming overly warm. The overall feel is like they have just the right amount of PRAT to say that they are both warm and natural at the same time. Sibilant sounds can be heard without any kind of harshness.
 
Soundstage and Imaging
Soundstage is really good thanks to their high resolution. Imaging is somewhat in the head, with a dynamic midbass and lower midrange coming from outside the head.
 
Comparisons
At the moment, Zen 2.0’s biggest competitor is its other earbuds. Because of this I will compare them to my two other VE earbuds, the Zen 1.0 and the Monk.
 
VE Zen 1.0 (discontinued)
The Zen 1.0 caught a lot of people off guard when they first stepped on to the scene, offering a level of dynamic sound and texture that wasn’t experienced from an earbud.
 
The Zen 2.0 took any knocks that could be held against the original and addressed them. They took the Zen 1.0 and improved midbass and lower midrange resolution and gave it a slight forwardness that is more rich, cohesive and engaging. There’s an added timbre and punch that makes the Zen 2.0 the better earphone in my opinion. Both earphones have a similar treble presence.
 
Build quality is a draw, but I give the Zen 2.0 a decisive advantage in the style department. Zen 2.0 also gets an advantage for accessories, offering a set of silicone fins for those looking for a more secure fit.


 
VE Monk ($5 USD on Aliexpress)
You might be thinking why I would be comparing a five dollar earbud to the Zen 2.0. Truth be told, there will be some people who might say they prefer the Monk sound over the 2.0. The Monk might be the greatest deal in earphones today.
 
Comparing the sound of the two, the Monk is definitely the colder sounding earphone. Zen 2.0 is much warmer, smoother and less fatiguing earphone of the two. The Monk has a much crisper top end that is harsh in comparison to the Zen 2.0. Zen gets an edge with better dynamics and timbre. Monk gets an edge for being an easier to drive earphone that works better with cell phones. Listening to them both, I personally find the Zen 2.0 to be a more refined, fatigue free and enjoyable sound.
 
Build quality is similar, but I give a slight edge to the Zen 2.0 for their ninety degree plug. Zen gets an edge for style, and also has a better accessories package.
 
NOTE: If you aren’t sure which earphone to pick from because of the tremendous price to performance value of the Monk, let it be known that Lee will include the Monk for FREE with any Zen 2.0 purchase. Awesome!

 
Conclusion
If the Zen 2.0 was the only earphone I had, I wouldn’t be missing out on a whole lot. The Zen 2.0 has once again taken earbuds to a level I didn’t know was possible. Paired with a high quality and amplified source and fitting accessory, their dynamic and fatigue free sound takes my listening experience to the next level.
 
If you want an earbud with top of the line style and sound, the Zen 2.0 should be on the top of your list.  
 
20160131_083755.jpg
Thanks for reading and happy listening!
Laura Jia
Laura Jia
Laura Jia
Laura Jia
Hello
 
I am Laura. sorry to interrupt you. Could you review our BT earphones? 
 
here is my email: laura@ivafee.com
 
I don't know how to get touch with you.
 
I look forward to your reply.
 
Best Regards,
 
Laura
Mike11
Mike11
@Housoundfi Fantastic review! This matches my impressions almost exactly. For those still hesitating, just do it and get a pair now! Running Spotify straight out off my iPhone 6, they already sound glorious!
Pros: SOUND QUAILTY, COMFORT , LOOKS
Cons: NONE!!!!!!! :-)
I'll just put a simple review on the Venture electronics Zen 2.0 on the most important part which is the sound quailty.
some pics:
1.jpg
2.jpg
I only have about 50hrs of burn in one these beauties but what they are capable of already is beyond my mind  as they just draw you into the midrange(vocals) on everything that i have from american music to hindi to bangladeshi music. the whole sound signature is described as real to me and natural with wide dynamic range and a soundstage that is true to the recoring.
 
BASS:
full,controlled and never spilling into the midrange.
MIDRANGE:
the star of the show ,it is so full and liquid smooth with no peaks and it can easily bring tears to your eyes if that is with the music is intended for.
TREBLE:
smooth and extended not no peaks either.
SOUNDSTAGE:
3D, wide, deep ,tall. source and file dependent.
EFFICIENCY:
very efficient but also scale with more power and better source.
TRANSPARENCY:
very transparent and ethereal.
 
SOURCE AND MUSIC USED FOR EVALUATION:
LG V10
Music; Diana Krall: WallFlower flac 24b\96khz
 
THANKS YOU FOR YOUR TIME :)
mochill
mochill
No comparison, kt100 is just what it is . cheap and ok :)
Decommo
Decommo
How does it compare with Asura 2.0 and Monk? I have Monk and love to see your thought comparing with Asura and Zen 2.0. 
mochill
mochill
More balanced then monk but also need way more power. Versus asura 2.0 . have fuller bass and less treble. But both the zen 2.0 and asura 2.0 have lower hours of break in.
Pros: SQ, build
Cons: Foamless for better sounding
1.jpg2.jpg4.jpg5.jpg3.jpg
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
So, I took a lot of time with my Zen2.0, so that I can objectively evaluate them, despite my love for Zen1.0 LOL. The main thing is what Zen2.0 beats its predecessor, it is more natural tonal balance, which has the advantage that I can listen to them from any source, and he always gives the natural and organic and Voices for vocals and acoustic instruments. The disadvantage believe that they are configured to use foamless, that in my Russia in -20 ° C is not very practical, IMHO. If you do not take this into account, the real Eargasm provided to you. I recommend!
Redcarmoose
Redcarmoose
Wow! Is that a zip-tie? Great!
BloodyPenguin
BloodyPenguin
Jealous!  Must sound Amazing!  Thank you for the review!
golov17
Pros: 1.0: Detailed & Analytic, good staging --- 2:0: Natural & Organic, immersive and addictive sound signature.
Cons: Lack packaging and accessories, no mic/remote, needs an amp.
VE or Venture Electronics is not your standard run of the mill audio company. My experience with them has been an enjoyable to say the least. The first I heard about them was on the off chance around Head-Fi from these savoury fellows who kept raving on about these earbud earphones that were reportedly amazing. Looking the pictures I completely dismissed it for just plain old unjustified hype; how naïve I was.
Then, out of the blue I got a message for uncle H20 asking me if I would like to take on some review samples from VE. Of course I gladly accepted his invitation. On arrival I received 3 items, one of which was VE’s entry level earbud, the Monk, which I simply threw into a draw at work and forgot all about them. On an odd day I decided to try them and was completely blown away at what I heard. There is a whole story to this which you can read here: VE Monk review.
As I got more and more engrossed into the amazing sound of the Monk, I was greeted with waves taunting messages from @RedJohn456 to get my hands on the Zen, as it was supposed to be so much better. To me, this statement was preposterous as already had a bias against the earbud design and my mind just could not fathom how an earbud could sound even better than the Monk. I thought that the Monk was the pinnacle, and it costed $5 which was just madness, so a $150 model from the same company must be just bonkers good. I wasn’t wrong.
 
I first received the VE Zen 1.0 and was quite underwhelmed. I was expecting more of the same as with the Monk, but more of it. The Zen 1.0 was much the polar opposite. Sporting a colder, more refined, toned down, and somewhat analytical sound signature, whilst still having great character, texture and immersion as the Monk. Don’t get me wrong, the Zen 1.0 is still a bonkers earphone; it’s got 320 Ohms of impedance for goodness sake! What is this bizzaro world? But to me it missed that sweet spot and amazing character that the Monk had which needed to return.
So I spent some time with the original Zens and withdrew from discussions about it until I received the long await revised Zen, with fingers cross, hoping that Lee did not disappoint. And to my patient surprise it was all that I ever imagined the Zens to be, or should've been.
Again, VE had flip-flopped and the 2.0 became a completely different beast to the 1.0. The Zen 2.0 was more like Monk. Retaining the insane 320 Ohms of impedance and a new transparent skin as well as a new cable. The 2.0 brought back that amazing immersive and organic experience you got with the Monk but with a more refined and detailed representation of the music. When listening to the new Zens I can just put my library on shuffle and melt away into the abyss, just forget about everything. It is as addictive as the Monk was and more. It was enlightenment.
 

 

Specifications

 
Frequency response​
  15 ~ 23500 Hz (-10dB)
Impedance​
  320 Ω @ 1kHz
Sensitivity​
  106 dB @ 1mW
Plug​
  Gold Plated 3.5 mm (1/8”) 90 degree angled
Cable Length​
 1.2m (47") TPE sheaved OFC
Driver​
  15.4mm
Maximum Input Current​
  1500m
 
 

Build

The built, as with all the VE earbuds I’ve tried is much the same. Being as standard earbud as it gets. If it wasn’t for the colour and cable differences you would not be able to tell them apart. These earbuds are like Ninjas in disguise. They look like a normal everyday earbud until you actually listen to them.
The cable on the Zen 1.0 is a clear silver cable which is a tiny bit stiffer than what I’d like, and it’s got a straight connector, but it’s got great strain relief and one of the best neck synchs that I’ve ever used. The cable of the 2.0 is red coloured clear silver cable which is now a 90 degree angled jack and is much more supple now.
Both are very light and feel strong enough to last through daily abuse.
 

Comfort

I have very small ears and these, like the VE Monks, sit in my ear surprisingly very securely. On the odd occasion I do need to readjust them when turning my head, but for the most part they are very good. Weight plays a big role here.
 

Accessories

You get a hard ball shaped clamshell carry case witch is strong enough to protect it’s contents. You also get some full sizes and donut earbud foams. You also get shirt clip if you need one. Nothing too special. You’re really not paying for fancy accessories or an unboxing experience.
 

Driveability

Whilst you can get them loud enough from a mobile phone, I would not suggest it; the sound is dull and just sound wrong. I did most of my listening from my Audio-gd NFB15.32 and the Ve RunAbout for portable use. I did try it with the FiiO X1, FiiO E17, xDuoo X2 and xDuoo X3, but all seemed to struggle to power these beasts.
 

Sound

The sound of the two products is so different that they may as well be 2 separate products. I will describe both of them with a few words off the top of my head just to paint a picture of how different they really are:
Zen 1.0: Cold, flat, analytical, refined, open and dynamic.
Zen 2.0: Natural, organic, warm, open, detailed and dynamic.
 
As I have mentioned previously, the 1.0 is a flatter and more analytical approach, which to me is rather boring. I would have been very impressed with the 1.0 if I didn’t hear the Monk before it. It still is a great sounding earbud when compare to the previous experience I’ve had with other earbuds.
 

Treble

Zen 1.0
It’s not the fastest treble you’ll hear but it’s very good for an earbud. It’s quite detailed and extends very well. Though I do feel there is a bit of a dip somewhere in there that makes it slightly blunted and too quick on decay.
 
Zen 2.0
The emphasis here has been shifted somewhat which brings back that shimmer that was missing in the 1.0. But the speed has decreased a bit which puts a bit of a veil on the detail. In return you get a more airier presentation.
 

Mids

Zen 1.0
The timber of the vocals and acoustic instruments is very good and sounds pretty accurate. There isn’t a particular tilt or colouration that sways it in either direction. The are though a little recessed and lack some detail.
 
Zen 2.0
The Vocals are warmer and more textured and slightly more forward. It’s a little less detailed than the 1.0 but more present and feel more alive with a bit more reverberation.
 

Bass

Zen 1.0
The bass on the 1.0 kind of reminds me of balanced armature bass. It’s fast and detailed but lacks authority and thump. Nonetheless it’s great for an earbud and it reaches quite low.
 
Zen 2.0
It has an amazingly addictive bass note that’s textured and detailed. It’s authoritative and has substantial kick. It’s not bass head quantity but it’s nearly perfect to me.
 

Soundstage and Imaging

Both have quite similar soundstage and imaging performance. It’s really wide and deep and you get a very immersive out-of-head experience. The Zen 2.0 is better as it is slightly deeper and more accurate. The extra warmth makes the air feel more natural and realistic.
Click on the photo to see in larger resolution​
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Conclusion

Both the Zen 1.0 and 2.0 are Head-Fi worthy and both have a place of their own. The Zen 1.0 sits in the colder analytical lovers corner and the Zen 2.0 sits in the musical, more bassy lovers corner. Both are completely bonkers and I love them both for that. Though, personally I feel that the 2.0 is the victor here. It took what I fell in love with the Monk and made it better. Lee from VE is a real wizard, and I really wish that he continues to make more of these completely insane products of his!
 
Cheers!
 
 
B9Scrambler
B9Scrambler
Excellent review!
pinoyman
pinoyman
can you compare them to the baldoors mate?
DJScope
DJScope
Sorry mate, I don't know what Baldoors are, so I doubt I could help you here. As previously mentioned, I wasn't the biggest fan of earbuds before hearing the Monk and Zen. So my experience with earbuds is quite limited. I've only hear 2 other "good" earbuds which weren't that good in my opinion.
Pros: Great sound that can be tuned to your liking with covers. Comfortable. Attractive.
Cons: Needs a good source to really shine.

 
*** I originally posted this review under the VE Zen listing, but since a VE Zen 2.0 listing was created after my initial review I'm reposting here. ***
 

INTRODUCTION

Upstart Venture Electronics has been making quite the name for themselves around Head-Fi in 2015. It seems like everybody who listens to their gear is nothing short of impressed with what this new company has been able produce in a short amount of time. From their super bang for your buck $5 Monk earbuds to their high-resolution Duke IEM to the Runabout amp, their products never cease to impress. The same can be said for their Zen earbuds. In fact, I received a review sample of the Zen earbuds quite some time ago. You remember those, right? The 320 Ohm white earbuds people were raving about. Well, right before I was going to write my review for them, I got word from VE that an improved Zen would soon be released called Zen 2.0. I was quite enamored with the original Zen, so I was skeptical that the new model could really be that much better. But on the other hand, VE really seemed to know how to produce master craft earbuds so I shelved my review of the original and waited patiently for the new model to arrive. Arrive they did, and boy was VE right about these being an improvement. They took an masterpiece of an earbud that I was looking at giving a solid 4.5 star review and kicked things up a notch. Yes folks, I'm awarding the VE Zen 2.0 my first ever 5 star review. I honestly never thought the day would come, but I think VE has simply done an outstanding job with these. 
 
Before we get to the review proper, let's take a moment to learn about VE (Venture Electronics):
 

 
Before we head off to the review, I'm going to give you a few links I found useful:
  1. VE's Website: LINK.
  2. VE's AliExpress Store: LINK
  3. VE Thread: LINK.
  4. @DJScope's review: LINK
  5. @Brooko's Zen 1.0 and 2.0 Veritas measurements: LINK
 
 
 

DISCLAIMER

There is no financial incentive from VE for writing this review.  I am in no way affiliated with VE, and this is my honest opinion of the Zen 2.0 earbuds. I would like to thank VE for giving me a chance to review the Zen 2.0 earbuds, and I hope my feedback proves useful for my fellow Head-Fi members as well as for VE.
 
 

ABOUT ME

I'm a 43 year old father who loves music.  While I listen mostly to electronic and metal these days, I do listen to a wide variety of music - from electronic (Autechre, Boards of Canada) to modern/minimalist composition (John Cage, Philip Glass) to alternative rock (Flaming Lips, Radiohead) to jazz (John Coltrane and Miles Davis) to metal (Behemoth, King Diamond) to classic rock (Eagles, Rush).  
 
I'm primarily a portable audio enthusiast. My portable music journey started with the venerable Sony Cassette Walkman and then progressed to portable CD players, minidisc recorders (still have my Sharp DR7), and finally on to DAPs like the Rio Karma, iRiver IHP-1xx, iPod 5.5, iPhones, and the newer crop of DAPs from Fiio and iBasso.
 
Being a portable audio enthusiast, I typically listen with IEMs but am enjoying listening with full-size headphones more and more and tend to like u-shaped sound signatures, although I break out v-shaped IEM & HP from time to time for fun.
 
As with a lot of people my age, I've got some hearing issues.  I've got mild tinnitus and suffer from allergies, which can affect hearing in my right ear.  I'll admit it, I'm not blessed with a pair of golden ears.  That said, I've been listening to portable gear for a long time and feel confident in assessing audio gear - just wanted to be transparent up front.



 
 
SPECS
  1. Driver: 15.4mm Single Dynamic 
  2. Rated Impedance: 320 Ω @ 1kHz
  3. Frequency Range: 15 ~ 23500 Hz (-10dB)
  4. Sensitivity: 106 dB @ 1mW
  5. Cable: 1.2m TPE-sheathed OFC
  6. Plug: 3.5mm gold-plated L-plug 
  7. MSRP: $148
 

 

PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES



Since this was an early review unit, I didn't receive final packaging. So what did I get? It's all in the picture below.
 


Zen 2.0, regular and donut foam covers, ear stabilizers, shirt clip, and clamshell case. Just a note that the foam covers included are the Heigi-style foams, which are thicker than the foam covers included with the original Zen earbuds. This has some ramifications on sound I'll mention later.
 
 

BUILD & ERGONOMICS

As usual, I'll walk you through the VEZen 2.0's build in pictorial format.
 
VE Zen 2.0 without covers

 
Hey, those look pretty sexy, don't they! Gone are the opaque white earpieces and cable of the original Zen earbuds. The earpieces are still the same shape and size, but they now come in a transparent smoked gray color. Each earpiece has the VE logo, which is their web address. So if you forget how to find out more about VE, just yank the buds out of your ears, take a peek, type 52VE.CN into your browser, and BAM! you're on the VE website. Of course there are also L/R markings on each earpiece, as well. To complete the transformation, the cable sheath is now transparent exposing the colorful red wiring underneath. I really like the new look, and I think you will, too!
 
 
Y-Splitter, Shirt Clip, 3.5mm L-Plug

 
With the Zen 2.0, VE did away with the chin cinch, which is honestly no big loss. In it's place, they now include a shirt clip. I prefer using shirt clips anyway, so for me this was a positive move. I'm sure some of you will pine for a chin cinch, though. Sorry. Pretty standard 3.5mm L-plug. No complaints there.
 
 
VE Zen 2.0 with Ear Stabilizers


While they look odd, the ear stabilizers actually do a really good job of maintaining a secure fit without resorting to using foam covers.
 
 
Here's a pic of the ear stabilizers in action!

 
I know it looks weird, but it works. It really does. For me anyway. Some really dislike them, though. It all depends on ear anatomy and personal preference. All you can do is give them a try and see if they work for you. I've also used them naked, with the included foam covers, with the original Zen's foam covers, and with some rubber covers from my Yuin OK-series earbuds. They all change the Zen 2.0 different sound, some more dramatically than others.
 
So just to wrap up, you're getting pretty much everything you need to get up and running with the Zen 2.0. You get a couple foam covers to choose from and ear stabilizers to ensure you get a good fit and can fine-tune the sound to your liking. You get a solidly-built pair of earbuds. And you get a case to stash them in when they're not jammed in your ears. What more could you ask for? A remote? Mic? Nope, not for this guy. I'm not about compromising the cable's integrity with such accoutrements. I'm not very likely to use 320 Ohm earbuds with my smartphone anyway. Are you? 
 
 
SOUND
I listen to a lot of experimental electronic and metal and mainly used those genres to evaluate the VE Zen 2.0 earbuds. During my time with them, I've listened through many sources including my FiiO X5 DAP and Aune X1S Desktop DAC/Amp. I've also listened through a couple DAPs I've had in for testing. Just for kicks, I also gave them a listen out of my iPhone 5s (yes it can be done!). I'll go over what I thought of the sound and some brief thoughts on cover-rolling.
 
But first, a beauty shot with the Aune M2
 
You can change an earbud's sound signature quite a bit by using them with or without different covers. For those of you who're new to earbuds, this is a bit like tip rolling kicked up a notch. I'll try my best to covey what like about them with different covers and wrap-up with a brief comparison with Zen 1.0. So, here we go...
 
In conversations with VE, I learned that Zen 2.0 are intended to be used naked. Yes, naked my friends. Take those covers off, and revel in the glorious balanced sound! In my experience, this is as good as it gets from an earbud. While it's not like a sub-woofer pounding away at your eardrums, you actually get good bass response. If you want more bass, you can experiment with covers. Using rubber rims will give you a bit more bass presence. Using foam covers will provide even more bass response, the level varying depending on foam thickness. Mids vary from very slightly forward naked or with rubber rims to slightly recessed with foam covers. Similarly, the upper end is nicely present, lively and engaging naked or with rubber rims. Throw on some foam covers, and the upper end is damped. So depending on the covers you use, you can get anything from a nicely balanced, detailed listening experience with a nice soundstage and good imaging to a warmer, darker, more intimate listening experience with thick foam covers. It really is a lot of fun to play around with different covers depending on your mood, the type of music you're listening to, and your source. As mentioned above, I listened to Zen 2.0 out of various sources. They're revealing enough to scale well with better sources, so please don't dismiss them just because they're earbuds. Play around with better sources and see how Zen 2.0 respond. I think you'll be as impressed as I was at how well they respond as you throw them at increasingly better sources.
 
It was interesting listening to these after falling in love with the original Zen earbuds. While I loved the originals, they were a bit more of a one trick pony. Throw on some foam covers, and they were great. Nicely balanced with great detail. Take the covers off, and they sounded very thin, cold, and overly bright. The new Zen are much more versatile. Since they were tuned to be nicely balanced without covers, you can really play around with the sound signature. It gives you more reasons to fall in love with Zen 2.0. Nice!
 

 
SUMMARY
I know they're derided, but I've always had a fondness for earbuds and just love what VE is doing. Along with other boutique earbud manufacturers like Blox and Yuin, VE is dead set on showcasing just how great earbuds can be. From their $5 Monk (Go! Buy!! Now!!!) to their mid-level Asura and on to their flagship Zen 2.0, each hand every one of VE earbuds are top-notch performers. The upgrade from Zen 1.0 to Zen 2.0 showcases just how fast VE is learning, iterating, and improving. I honestly can't wait to see what they'll bring us next!
 
If you're at all interested in Zen 2.0 but aren't ready to drop more than $100 for a pair of earbuds yet, please do yourself a favor and pick up a pair of VE Monk. Seriously. I mean it. It'll cost you less that $10. Try those and get a small taste of what you'll be getting with Zen 2.0. I think you'll be convinced to take the next step and try out Zen 2.0, in which case you'll have Monk as your beater buds and Zen 2.0 as the buds you keep for a more immersive listen.
 
I hope you found this useful and would like to give a hearty thanks to VE for giving me the opportunity to review the Zen 2.0. Keep cracking out awesome buds VE!

mochill
mochill
Great review bro :grinning:
nmatheis
nmatheis
Thanks Mo!
Pros: Sound, looks, built and comfort
Cons: Deepest bass is missing
The Zen 2.0 was sent to me from Venture Electronics (VE) a while back. I would like thank VE and Lee for letting me check out the Zen 2.0. I would also like to thank my friend Tamal for introducing me to VE in general and their amazing line up of earbuds in particular. The Zen 2.0 is available from Aliexpress:
 
http://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/Venture-Electronic-VE-Zen-high-impedance-320-ohms-earbud/1924356_32302987270.html
 
I’m not in any way affiliated with Venture Electronics.
 
Short introduction of Venture Electronics:
VE is a small and pretty new company, only three years old.
 
They’re located in mainland China and have fast become very popular in audiophile circles due to their line of earbuds (Monk, Asura and Zen) which offers excellent value for money.
 
The Zen 2.0 is the current flagship earbud from VE so let’s find out how it performs.
 
IMG_3291.jpg
 
IMG_3292.jpg
 
 
About me:
I’m a 43 year old music and sound lover that changed my focus from speakers to headphones and IEM’s about five years ago. At that time I realized that it wasn’t realistic for me to have all the different setups that I wanted and still house a family of four children and a wife so my interest turned first to full sized headphones and later also IEM’s.
 
My preferences are towards full sized open headphones and I believe that also says something about what kind of sound signature I prefer (large soundstage in all directions, balanced and organic sound).
 
My music preferences are pretty much all over the place (only excluding classical music, jazz and really heavy metal). My all-time favorite band is Depeche Mode although I also listen to a lot of grunge/indie, singer/songwriter/acoustical stuff as well as the typical top 40 music.
 
I do not use EQ, ever.
 
I’m a sucker for value for money on most things in life Head-Fi related stuff is no exception.
 
Built and accessories:
The VE Zen 2.0 is a single dynamic driver earbud.
 
AFAIK the Zen 2.0 is avaialble in three versions: the regular one (this is the one I've got), one with an upgraded Cardas cable and one balanced version.
 
The cable is really nice and I find it to be excellent with very little tangling, low on microphonics, soft and flexible. As a matter of fact this cable is among the best I’ve ever come across in any IEM or earbud. The plug is L-shaped the way I prefer and it feels very solid. Left/right marking is pretty easily visible. The only other thing I’m missing is a chin slider.
 
The build is all plastic but still seems very solid.  I’d also like to add that I really like both the color scheme and the built on the Zen 2.0. Everything about them looks and feel premium.
 
Since these were a review sample there was no retail package included with my pair. There were some accessories though:
1 zippered case to store them in when not in use
1 bag with donut foams covers
1 bag with foam covers
1 shirt clip
 
As far as I understand the following will be included in the sales version in addition to what’s mentioned above:
1 Pelican style case (instead of the generic zippered one that I’ve got)
1 pair of ear hooks
1 pair of the amazing VE Monk earbud
 
IMG_3375.jpg
 
IMG_3380.jpg
 
IMG_3293.jpg
 
IMG_3297.jpg
 
 
The Zen 2.0 is surprisingly easy to drive despite their 320Ohms impedance and works fine even with LG G3 phone. Isolation is pretty much none existent, after all it is an earbud.  As a matter of fact I find the lack of isolation also to be a great strength in certain situations.
 
As already mentioned the impedance of the Zen 2.0 is as high as 320Ohms but due to the rather high sensitivity (108dB @1mW) they’re still quite easy to drive. That being said I do find them to scale very well with a better source but not necessarily by more power alone.
 
The specs:
Housing
Plastic
Driver Unit
Dynamic, 15.4 mm
Frequenzy range
15Hz-23.5KHz
Sensitivity
108 dB
Impedance
320 Ohms
Cable lenght
1.2m
 
Fit and Ergonomics:
I’ve got to be honest and say that I’ve not used earbuds in more than 20 years before receiving the VE Monk a couple of months ago so I’m certainly not going to claim that I’m an expert on them.
 
I’ve lived with the impression that the fit of earbuds are not for me for the last 15-20 years. After receiving the Monk I was really surprised how easy they are to fit and how well they stay in my ears, the same is true for the Zen 2.0.  They’re also extremely comfortable and are certainly lighter on the ears than pretty much every IEM that I’ve tried.
 
To foam or not to foam?
While I found both the Monk and the original Zen to sound their best with donut foams applied I prefer the Zen 2.0 naked or with rubber rings. With foam I find them overly warm and not airy enough but as usual YMMV and there are plenty of options to try out to find ones preferred sound and fit.
 
I do notice quite a difference in the sound by the way the Zen 2.0 sits in my ear so it might be worth playing around a bit to find the sweet spot for your preference.
 
Sound:
I’ve used these quite a lot for the last couple of weeks and they’ve played for well over 100 hours.  
I received the original Zen together with the Zen 2.0 for comparison sake. To understand more about what the Zen’s all about I started to use only the original Zen for a couple of days before moving on to listen to the Zen 2.0.
 
I’ve used the Zen 2.0 with my LG G3 phone, the SHOZY Lancea paired with Venture Electronics own amplifier the RunAbout (my review of it is available here: http://www.head-fi.org/products/venture-electronics-ve-runabout-portable-amplifier/reviews/14527 ) and in my main system with the Advance Acoustic MDA503 tube DAC feeding my Matrix M-stage.
 
Demo list:
Mark Knopfler – Sailing to Philadelphia
Røyksopp (Feat.Susanne Sundfør) – Save Me
Ane Brun – These Days
Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana
Metallica – Die Die My Darling
The Peter Malick Group – Immigrant
Eva Cassidy – Songbird
Thomas Dybdahl – A Lovestory
Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why
Celldweller – Unshakeable
Jack Johnson – Better Together
Seinabo Sey – Younger (Kygo remix)
Dire Straits- So Far Away
Tracy Chapman – Baby can I hold you
Lupe Fiasco - Deliver
Morrissey – Earth Is the Loneliest Planet
Adele - Hello
 
The overall sound signature is well balanced, smooth and slightly on the warm side. It has a lot of characteristics that I usually associate with open full size headphones and that suit my preferences very well.
 
The Zen 2.0 does lack some extension in the sub-bass region and don’t go as deep as I’d like with some music. Apart from this the quality of the bass is very good. Mid- and upper-bass is clean and clear with a slight lift but absolutely no bleed into the midrange. The bass quantity is enough to keep them from sounding thin and both male voices and guitars sound full and natural with them.
 
The midrange is well in balance with the rest of the frequencies. In total the vocal reproduction on both male and female artist is very good. The midrange is really liquid and smooth making for a very enjoyable and easy listening.
 
The treble is full and smooth and despite having zero sibilance it doesn’t sound too rolled off either.
 
Soundstage in all directions is larger than what one can expect from the average IEM but a bit smaller than you’d expect from a full size open headphone. Clarity, micro details and separation is also very good.
 
What strikes me the most with the way the Zen 2.0 though is how extremely pleasant and non-fatiguing they sound overall. No disturbing peaks anywhere, not to bright nor to dark just pure excellence.    
 
Comparison:
Please note that the comments in the comparison section are not in absolute terms but in comparison between subject A and B. This means (as an example) that if subject A is found to be brighter than subject B it does not necessarily mean that subject A is bright sounding in absolute terms. I hope this makes sense.
 
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The VE trio, from top to bottom: Zen, Monk and Zen 2.0
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From the left: Zen, Monk and Zen 2.0
 
VE Monk vs VE Zen 2.0
In this comparison the Monk is used with foam donuts while the Zen 2.0 is used naked. The reason for this is simply because this is the way I feel that they each perform their best so it seems the most fair to me.
 
Compared to the Zen 2.0 the Monk has more sub-bass, an overall fuller sound and a smaller soundstage. The Zen 2.0 on the other hand offers a more airy presentation and a more detailed and refined overall sound. Comparing these two feels more like comparing a great open to a great closed headphone (Zen 2.0 being the open one), rather than comparing two earbuds with a $130 price difference.  Although the Zen 2.0 is the better sounding to me the difference is no way near that what the price would imply and this is certainly not due to the Zen 2.0 being bad value for money but rather to the Monk being probably the best value in head-fi ever.
 
The Zen 2.0 is slightly harder to drive and feels overall more solid built and in my opinion also looks nicer.
 
VE Zen vs VE Zen 2.0
In this comparison the Zen is used with foam donuts while the Zen 2.0 is used naked. The reason for this is simply because this is the way I feel that they each perform their best so it seems the most fair to me.
 
Compared to the 2.0 the original Zen has more bass impact (especially sub-bass), a slightly smaller soundstage and an overall less refined sound. The Zen 2.0 has got a more airy presentation. While there’s not a night and day difference between these two it’s no doubt to me that the updated version (2.0) is indeed the better sounding and a worthy replacement to the original version.
 
The original Zen is slightly harder to drive while the Zen 2.0 feels overall more solid built and in my opinion also looks much nicer.
 
To sum up the comparison section I think that the Zen 2.0 is indeed the best sounding among the three while the Monk is the best value. The original Zen is also excellent but it’s got a worthy replacement.
 
Summary:
The Zen 2.0 is truly an upgrade to the highly praised original Zen not only in built and looks but also in sound.
 
It offers the most non fatiguing listening experience I’ve ever come across in my head-fi life this far both IEM’s and full sized headphones included . The only thing I could possible wish for would be a bit more sub-bass impact but I wouldn’t want to trade anything else to get it. That being said I still enjoy them tremendously and they quite easily outperform most of the IEM’s I’ve ever heard soundwise.      
 
Thank you Lee and KK at Venture Electronic for making this amazing sound available to us and for letting me review it. 
yacobx
yacobx
Really great write up and comparisons! thank you for taking the time, I don't know why i find myself reading these reviews when I have the Zen 2 and the monk but I like to hear people have the same findings that I do.
capnjack
capnjack
Great review peter, I can't wait for mine to arrive now !
peter123
peter123
Thanks for the support guys!
Pros: Sound quality, build quality, aesthetic appeal, open sound, value, easier to drive, channel matching
Cons: Can’t really be used with covers (changes freq response too much). L/R markings hard to see
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For larger (1200 x 800) views, click any image

INTRODUCTION

I’ve spent a little time with Lee from Venture Electronics over the last few months, emailing backwards and forwards, and really getting coming to understand who VE is and what their philosophy is. But first let’s step back a little and look at how I came to be reviewing the Zen V2 today.
 
I’d heard a little about the VE Zen previously on the forums, and it had been one to pique my interest – especially when I read the initial reviews. So when my friend Tamal (RedJohn456) contacted me with an introduction to Lee (zhibili06), I was very appreciative that Lee generously offered to send me not only the Zen, but also the Monk, Duke and Runabout amp.
 
I’ve reviewed the original Zen and Runabout, and still have the Monks to do.  The Duke will need to wait as unfortunately my pair was confirmed to be part of an early defective run.  Hopefully I’ll still get to hear a proper pair at some stage.
 
When Lee announced he was working on the Zen V2, he contacted me directly, sent me a pair, and I’ve had them now for a little over 7 weeks.  Although I’m not a believer in burn-in, I know Lee is, so I’ve even been faithfully “putting hours” on them.  For the record – I’ve noticed no change.
 
So I just want to thank Tamal for the original hook-up, and Lee for not only this opportunity, but also his time with me talking about what VE does and why.
 
ABOUT VENTURE ELECTRONICS
 
Venture Electronics (or VE) is a 3 year old audio company based in Shenyang, Liaoning in the Peoples Republic of China. I was able to ask Lee a little about the company, and he has been very open and approachable – something I love to see when dealing with a manufacturer.  It really shows a lot about a company when they show pride in their own achievements, and are so open about sharing information with their customer base.
VE is relatively small (for now) with 5 employees, and currently have a very small product line (Zen, Asura and Monk earbuds, Duke IEM and Runabout amp). There are some amazing things coming though (which I can’t talk about), and it would be fair to say that given VE’s track record, 2016 could be quite an exciting time for this small company.
 
I asked Lee about their core business, and he said they were primarily an internet company, and had developed more products than were currently on offer, but for now their current product range covered enough to cater for immediate development. Their goal long term is “to have the best budget and hi-end gear”, and it was refreshing to see some frank and honest comments in reply to some of my inquiries. I’m going to quote one of Lee’s replies, because it really does add to my impression of VE as a company.
 
“We see our fans, not just as moving wallets. I see our budget gear (like the monk) as a walking ad for our brand, among our online community (people who love earphones, because they mainly they love the ART the earphones can deliver, like gaming, movie, anime and stuff. We believe the Zen is the best earbud in the world, and as we can sell the monk for cheap then it might go viral and get more attention to the other products.  We believe to be the best hi-fi company, we need to have the best of the best gears, not only budget ones. If we only do budget, people will have a false image of us not being serious enough, so the idea is very simple”
 
And to close, I asked Lee about VE’s mission statement or values statement, and the answer I received made perfect sense – “keeping it real”.  As I’ve furthered my correspondence with him – I can reassure anyone reading that this is a value very much in evidence.
 
DISCLAIMER
 
I was provided the VE Zen V2 as a review unit. I have no other association or affiliation with VE.  I do not make any financial gain from this review – it is has been written simply as my way of providing feedback both to the Head-Fi community and also VE themselves.
 
I have now had the VE Zen V2 since early November (so a little over 7 weeks).  Normal RRP is USD 148.00. 
 
PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'.   (or a base-line for interpreting my thoughts and bias)
I'm a 48 year old music lover.  I don't say audiophile – I just love my music.  Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up.  I vary my listening from portables (Fiio X5ii, X3ii, LP5 and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD).  I also use a portable set-up at work – either X5ii/X3ii > HP, or PC > E17K > HP.  My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyer T1, Sennheiser HD600, and AKG K553.  Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has mainly been with the Dunu DN-2000J, Jays q-Jays, Alclair Curve2 and Adel U6. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).
 
I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock.   I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock.  I am particularly fond of female vocals.  I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences.  I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880.
 
I have extensively tested myself (abx) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent.  I do use exclusively redbook 16/44.1 if space is not an issue.  All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line).
 
I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences.  I am not a ‘golden eared listener’.  I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 48, my hearing is less than perfect.
 
Over the last couple of months – I’ve used the VE Zen V2 from a variety of sources, but for main body of this review, I’ve used it primarily with my Fiio X3ii combined with the E11K amp, and also the Luxury & Precision L5 Pro.. In the time I have spent with the Zen V2, I have noticed no change in the overall sonic presentation.  Listening time with the Zen V2 now would be around 30 -40 hours, and they’ve also had at least another 3 x 24 hour stints of additional time.
 
This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience.  Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.
 

THE REVIEW

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
 
The Zen V2 arrived in a courier bag – so no retail packaging. Lee told me that VE are working on new packaging for the Zen V2, and that it won’t be in the original white box used for the original Zen.  As far as accessories go, buyers of the Zen V2 will receive:
 
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Zen V2 package contents - Zen V2 + Monk + covers + mini pelican case
Zen V2 inside the well cushioned pelican case
 
  1. A free “Monk” earphone
  2. Foam covers
  3. 2 sets of earhooks (small and large)
  4. A shirt clip
  5. Small pelican style case
 
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Lee advised that this image shows the full accessories 
Close up of the two types of covers
 

The pelican case is not exactly pants pocket friendly, but it is solid, has great interior padding, and as long as you correctly wrap the Zen V2 cable, it is an ideal size for storage.
 
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
(From VE)
Type
Open dynamic earbud
Driver
Dynamic, 15.4mm
Frequency Range
15 Hz – 23.5 Khz
Impedance
320 ohm
Sensitivity
108dB (1mW)
Plug
3.5mm gold plated, straight jack
Cable
1.2m, TPE outer coat, 256 x 0.04 4n ofc copper
Weight
Approx 14g
IEM Shell
Polycarbonate / hard plastic
 
FREQUENCY GRAPH
 
The graph below is generated by a new measuring system I’m trialling – using the Vibro Veritas and ARTA software.  I don’t have the calibration for the microphone 100% correct yet – but the graphs I am getting are relatively close to Innerfidelity’s raw data (on other earphones we both share), and I think are “close enough” to get a reasonable idea of the frequency response for the Zen. Over time I am hoping to build a pre-set compensation curve so that I can get the graphs more consistent with Tyll’s curves.
 
zen2nocoverschannelmatch.pngcsdzen2coveroff.png
Zen V2 frequency graph (L/R) - no covers
Zen V2 CSD - no covers
 
The frequency response graph was created with no covers, and the body pressed lightly to the coupler to simulate a normal fitting. Further in the review I’ve added comparisons to the Monk and original Zen – as well as taking measurements with covers on and off.

 
What I’m hearing:
  1. Full, clean and quick bass, a little more mid-bass than sub-bass, but with good balance for an earbud.
  2. Clean and very clear mid-range, good vocal clarity
  3. Slight lift in upper mid-range which lends particularly well to harmonics with female vocalists
  4. Detailed but smooth treble
  5. Very good overall balance, and quite open sounding.
 
And one more note – this time on channel balance – it is pretty amazing (see graph).  Lee also told me that one other thing they switched (different from the original Zen) was their OEM factory. He’s very happy with the consistency of the results, and you can see why when looking at the care taken with driver matching.
 
BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN
 
When I first reviewed the original Zen, I commented that you could be forgiven for thinking “generic $10 earbuds” at first sight. This definitely isn’t the case with the new Zen V2.  Gone is the generic looking white plastic, and this time you get a “smoky” clear polycarbonate shell so you can actually see the internals. It is amazing how much a small change in shell can convey the image of a much higher quality product.
 
ZenV206.jpgZenV207.jpg
Rear bass port runs along the length of the Zen V2
From the side, and nice look at the internals
 
The shell this time is ever so slightly smaller than the original Zen, but still very close to 16mm in diameter. The pattern of ports is same / similar to the original Zen (two circular rows totally 56) close to the outer edge of the main face.  The rear of the earbud is ported on two opposite sides (two small and a single larger port), and there is also a rear port running parallel to, and along the full length of the cable exit. Like its predecessor, the Zen V2 has a quality of bass unlike I’ve heard on any other earbud, and again it is the combination of tuning and porting design which is able to achieve this.

 
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Closer look at the internals and outer ports
Front face and porting pattern
 
The entire earbud is approximately 33mm long from the top of the outer face to tip where the cable exits. There is no strain relief from the cable exit, but given the quality of the cable, and the fact that the cable is internally secured, and also that it will be primarily worn down, this will not be an issue.

 
Lee has confirmed that the driver on the new Zen V2 is very different from the original, and has not only been retuned, but also paired with better magnets to increase the sensitivity.
 
ZenV210.jpgZenV213.jpg
Note the knotted cable ensuring no stress on solder joints
Cable internals - image courtesy of Lee from VE
 
The cable is very pure copper (256 x 0.04 4n ofc) with a clear TPC outer jacket and each channel is separate and in side by side configuration – ideal if anyone wants to reterminate to balanced. The cable is more flexible than the original Zen, and once again has extremely low microphonics. Because of the cable internal weave, it manifests in a really attractive red colour, which when combined with the black of the jack and y-split, and the slightly smoky clear shell, really does look like a much higher class of earbud.

 
The Y split is pretty small, made of flexible rubber, and has no relief (but again none is needed).  There is no cinch. The jack this time right angled (a great choice Lee!), 3.5mm, gold plated, and has excellent strain relief. The jack is also smartphone case friendly, easily fitting my iPhone 5S with case intact.
 
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Right angled Jack - a great choice!
The simple but effective Y split - cable would be very easy to reterminate to balanced.
 
So the Zen V2 indeed looks a lot better than the original Zen, is slightly more petite, and has a much nicer and more manageable cable.  The only critique I would have is that the L/R markings on the earpiece stems are very hard to see. Red or silver print would help a lot. They are very slightly raised though, so if your fingers are sensitive enough, you can tell the markings that way.

 
FIT / COMFORT
 
Since I got the original Zen (and Monk), I’ve been using earbuds a lot more, so I knew fit and comfort were going to be pretty good. But when they first arrived, I naturally assumed that I’d need to use covers for optimum fit and sound.  Big mistake. The Zen V2 is designed to be used with no covers.  I’ve discussed this at length with Lee, and he’s confirmed that no-one in his team uses covers (or hooks, or other adornments). I’ll get to the sonics shortly but using covers (or indeed ear stability hooks) simply created a seal which hadn’t been allowed for in the tuning, and drastically increased bass response, and also forced the mid-range a long way forward.  They became completely unbalanced – and for me anyway – not really pleasant to listen to.
 
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Zen 2 with covers - but not good sonically IMO
Even the doughnuts change the sound too much
 
But worn “au natural”, the sonics are brilliant, and the fit is comfortable, light, and seems to be reasonably secure (YMMV).

 
The one thing I did notice when trying to get the Dunu stabilisers to work (besides the sonic change) was that they seemed to force an angle on the earbuds which was foreign to the natural angle I usually achieve.  So I think I’d now modify my stance on the use of stabilisers – even with the original Zen.  Each of us is going to be different, and trying to lock in a position may not be the smartest move with different physiology.
 
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Dunu stabilisers fitted
They aid stability, but affect sonics (adversely IMO)
 
The slight changes in overall size between the Zen V2 and original Zen work pretty well for me – but may not for everyone.  If you are they type who needs to wear covers for comfort, I would still give the V2 a try naked (the earbuds, not you, but I’ll let you make the call on that), but ultimately the original Zen may be more to your preference.

 
As far as isolation goes – it is an earbud – so any isolation is minimal.
 
So for me extremely comfortable, but does need slightly more adjustment to get an optimal fit.
 
POWER REQUIREMENTS
 
I was a little outspoken about the original Zen earbuds when it came to power, as although they are 320 ohm, I didn’t think they were overly difficult to drive.  They sounded every bit as good out of most of my sources – even unamped. So what has changed with the Zen V2?
 
Impedance has remained at 320 ohms, but the biggest change is in sensitivity.  V2 is slightly more sensitive at 108 dB @ 1mW, compared to the original Zen at 106 dB @ 1mW.  Measured with an SPL meter and 1 kHz tone, this equated to around 8-9 dB difference with the same tone on the same calibrated meter.
 
ZenV222.jpg
 
So what it means is that if both earphones are compared (with no covers), the Zen V2 will sound louder with less power.  I’m still ion the camp that the Zen V2 doesn’t absolutely need an amp to shine, and in my personal comparisons, adding additional amping (once properly volume matched) doesn’t somehow transform them further.  For me they seem to sound fantastic out of virtually every source I try – and that includes my iPhone 5S.
Like I did with the original Zen – I armed myself with my trusty SPL meter, set all of my DAPs and DAP/amps as close as possible to being level matched within 0.2 dB (not easy with an earbud), and then played the same track through each piece of equipment.  Here is what I found – the track used was Dire Straits “Sultans of Swing” – which I use often to test for dynamics and detail.
 
  • Fiio X3ii – 55/120 low gain.  Plenty of dynamics, good bass response, does not sound anaemic in any way.
  • Fiio X3ii + line-out to the E17K (0 gain, 21/60 on pot). No significant change from X3ii solo. If anything the sound might have been marginally smoother – or this may have been placebo.  They were pretty close anyway
  • Fiio X3ii + line-out to the E11K (low gain, approx. 2.3/9 on pot). No significant change from X3ii solo.
  • Fiio X3ii + line-out to the VE Runabout (low gain, approx. 15% of the pot used). No significant change from X3ii solo. The Runabout is a very clean source though.  I didn’t notice this as much with the original Zen, but A/Bing between X3ii and X3ii + Runabout with the Zen V2 may be revealing a little added clarity (or it could be that the Runabout may be a little more neutral or even a bit brighter than the Fiio).
  • Fiio X5ii – low gain, 57/120. Plenty of dynamics, good bass response, good detail. Slightly more vivid than the X3ii.
  • iPhone 5S – approx. 8 (50%) clicks of volume. Again plenty of dynamics, good bass response and detail level.  Flicking between X3ii, X5ii and iPhone 5S, and I can’t help but rank them X5ii > X3ii > iPhone 5S (purely on sonics).  Zen V2 sounds great on all three though.
  • L&P L5 Pro – medium gain approx. 38/60 volume. Continues to be one of the best sounding sources I have at my disposal. Comparatively the X3ii sounds slightly flat.
  • Fiio M3 (tiny $55 DAP) – 23/60 volume. Actually sounds stunningly good and proof that cost is not necessarily an indicator of overall quality.  Doesn’t have the overall resolution of some of the other DAPs, but has a great tonality which complements the Zen V2 very well.
 
As far as source goes, the Zen V2 is going to sound not just “good” but actually pretty stunning out of almost any source you throw at it.  And for me that is a huge advantage.
 
SOUND QUALITY
The following is what I hear from the VE Zen V2.  YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline).  I decided to have a little change from my usual testing, and this time, because the Zen V2 is VE’s flagship, and because impedance was never going to be an issue, I chose to use Luxury & precisions L5 Pro as a source.
 
ZenV223.jpg
 
I used no covers or earhooks or other adornments – as I said earlier, I think they degrade the sound instead of helping it.
 
Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and most can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks (I probably need to update it)
 
Thoughts on Default Signature
I’ve covered this in the frequency response section, but if I was to use some other descriptors, I’d choose clear, natural, detailed, and engaging. Where the original Zen reminded me a lot of the HD650 with its slightly warm and smooth (but still very detailed) signature (used with foam covers), the Zen V2 naked reminds me a little more of the Beyer T1 on a good amp.  It is a little brighter, a little more vivid, and a little more spacious.
 
While I was writing this, I was using Don Henleys “Best of Album”, and going back and forth between the Zen V2 + L5 Pro and T1 + LP5 combos. The T1 combo is more vivid / brighter, and a little more open – but the Zen V2 doesn’t fall behind at all, and that is no mean feat going up against what I consider to be an outstanding world class dynamic headphone.
 
What I am really amazed at though is the tonality and overall quality of the bass –especially given that the Zen V2 has no covers, and is an earbud!  What Lee and his team have done with these drivers is nothing short of outstanding.
 
Overall Detail / Clarity
Tracks used: Hey Nineteen, Sultans of Swing
 
The first noticeable thing with both tracks is that the bass is there but in perfect balance to the rest of the track.  For my tastes you can’t get a much more perfect mix.  There is a slight mid-bass bump, for a natural sounding bass back-beat, but no bleed, and it allows the rest of the mix to flourish.  All of Steely Dan’s glorious high quality details come though – and this is especially so with high hats and cymbal flourishes. With Sultans, again it is the natural balance that shines.  Knopfler’s vocals are rich and full, and the guitar still has bite. Incredibly detailed, but not at all harsh or sharp. In a word – wonderful.
 
Sound-stage & Imaging
Tracks used: Tundra, Dante’s Prayer, Let it Rain
 
The binaural track Tundra is one I use to gauge width, depth and imaging – and the Zen V2 is phenomenal with this track. The biggest thing to strike me was the sense of depth with the Zen V2 – there was a really good sense of how far away the drums were, and how much further the violin.  Actual width was good – projecting outside the imaginary sphere of my head, and again I am struck by how much the Zen V2 sound like good open headphones. Imaging is pin-point and very clear.
 
With Dante’s Prayer the Zen V2 was a little more intimate (but that is the recording rather than any fault with the earphone). Tonally the performance was brilliant – McKennitt’s vocals captivating, and the cello and piano constantly weaving a tapestry that sounded completely natural. I use the applause in this live version as an indicator of immersion and realism – the HD600 on the same track (with my eyes closed) actually puts me in the audience.  With the Zen V2, I am definitely there, and it is utterly convincing.
 
Next was Amanda Marshall’s holographic track Let It Rain, and I use this as a test for both vocal sibilance (there is quite a bit in the recording) and also for testing spatial ability.  The Zen V2 delivers a beautiful presentation – really open sounding.  The detail is brilliant, yet the sibilance is present but not highlighted.  I’m really enjoying this tuning.
 
Bass Quality and Quantity
Tracks used: Bleeding Muddy Water, Royals, You Know I’m No Good
 
Bleeding Muddy Waters is my test for bass texture and mid-bass bleed. It’s a dark broody track with a lot of texture in Mark’s vocals, and can be quite visceral in its intensity with some transducers. The Zen V2 shows clean, tight and clear mid-bass, and possibly just a little lacking in low-bass (the visceral impact isn’t quite there), but I’m enjoying this presentation very much.  A lot different than the original Zen – but both have their merits, and individual preference will dictate which one appeals.
 
Up next was my sub-bass test (Lorde’s Royals) – and this time the Zen V2 is noticeably lighter. The sub-bass is there but very subdued.  Ella’s vocals are brilliant – but this is one of those few occasions where I would have liked just a little more in the bottom end.  Good – but not great.
 
I finished with a little Amy Winehouse which has a good mix of mid and sub-bass, and is a good test of bass impact. Whilst the track generally was excellent (fantastic balance & Amy’s vocals were magical), again there wasn’t the usual impact I’m used to. It isn’t an issue for me, because the track is still so enjoyable – but worth noting for those who may be looking for bass similar to the original Zen.
 
Female Vocals
Tracks used : Aventine, Strong, For You, Human, The Bad In Each Other, Howl, Safer, Light as a Feather, Don’t Wake me Up, Ship To Wreck.
 
One of the things with the original Zen which I would have changed would have been the dominant peak at around 2 kHz – it sometimes just pushed the vocals (especially female) a little too far forward for me. The Zen V2 has tamed this area – now just a slight bump between 1-2 kHz, and for me, this has resulted in the same amount of euphonics with female vocalists, but a much more relaxed and pleasant signature.  I can turn the volume up on the V2, and I don’t get the same fatigue that I could get with the original Zen at higher volumes.
 
With the Zen V2, there is the same beautifully sweet/ethereal presentation of my favourite vocalists (Agnes Obel & Hannah from London Grammar were up first – and both were stunning to listen to), but this time the overall balance is velvet to my ears. Feist and FaTM may not have had quite the same bass to vocal dynamic contrast as the original Zens – but it’s still utterly enjoyable and I’d trade that in an instant for what the Zen V2 delivers as far as smoothness and pure presentation of vocals.
 
I couldn’t really pick a favourite with the Zen V2 – they were all winners for my tastes, but two artists I ended up listening to entire albums (so much for critical listening) were Norah, and also Florence’s new album. These really do remind me a little of the Noble Savant as far as vocal presentations goes – and yes, they really are that good!
 
Male Vocals
Track used: Away From the Sun, Art for Art’s Sake, Broken Wings, Hotel California, Keith Don’t Go, Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town.
 
The Zen V2 (like the original Zen) excels with Rock IMO, the bass impact isn’t quite as deep as the originals, but this made up for by better imaging and staging for me. There is still enough bass (especially mid-bass) to be very enjoyable, but it isn’t bloated at all, and the clarity and open-ness of the presentation is a breath of fresh air.  10CC almost took me back to when I used to listen to my uncles albums on his stereo (turntable and speakers) some 40 years ago, and indeed classic rock was fantastic on the Zen V2. But even quicker paced more modern Rock (Myles Kennedy’s vocals were extremely expressive) from the likes of Alter Bridge and Seether were fantastic to listen to.  Again, like its predecessor acoustic music shines (and again that term 'balance' is what comes to mind).  Male vocals have excellent texture and don’t sound thin or underdone.
 
My final test as always was Vedder, and this is like listening to him on the HD600s.  All the detail, the decay of cymbals, the imaging in the recording, and most of all Eddie himself – for my tastes Pearl Jam doesn’t get much better than this.
 
Other Genres
By now you’ve probably guessed that I am smitten with the Zen V2, and with good reason. Again like the original Zen, the V2 is a real all-rounder, and this shows when you start throwing other specific Genres at it.
Alt Rock in particular was sublime – Floyd was a joy to listen to, and Porcupine Tree was similarly dynamic.  But some of my favourite Genre tests involved Jazz (Portico Quartet and Miles both blew me away on the V2), and also Blues.  The V2 seems to have a great affinity for the perfect mixing of space, instruments and vocals. Joe Bonamassa’s guitar and husky/smooth vocals were another stand-out, and anyone with the Zen V2 I would thoroughly recommend trying out Joe’s live album from the Vienna Opera House.  The sense of space and ambience is truly amazing.
 
Classical is equally as good, and what was impressive was the overall tonality combined with that sense of space again.  Opera was outstanding (my Dad would love Netrebko on these), and single instrument (Zoe Keating’s Cello) breath-taking.
 
Probably the one Genre choice that I thought the original Zens did slightly better was Hip-hop, Trance, and some EDM (I actually enjoyed Little Dragon and The Flashbulb more with the V2).  Again this is due to the lighter impact on the low bass – so something to take into account.  It’s not bad, it’s just different.
 
EQUALISATION
 
For me personally, I wouldn’t try to EQ the Zen V2 (for my own tastes), but for those trying to coax a little more low bass out, I lifted the 31 and 62 Hz sliders on the X3ii, and tried Lorde’s Royals again.  The effect was noticeable and actually pretty good.  A lot more impact, but with no major detraction from the rest of the signature.  The same was true with Eminem and also Van Buuren – so an easy fix if you’d prefer a little more than the default.
 
COMPARISONS
 
The obvious questions here will be how the Zen V2 relates to the original Zen, and also the Monk.  So this is my subjective read on the differences.  For this comparison, I used foam doughnut covers on the Monk and original Zen, but no covers on the Zen V2.  Why?  Simply because IMO that is the way to get the best sound out of each earphone – I’ll explain why shortly. No EQ as used in the following comparisons.
 
Zen V2 vs Original Zen
The first thing I noticed between the two was the much stronger bass with the Zen original – especially in the low bass and mid-bass area from around 100 Hz down. The original Zen has a lot more impact in this area which some may find appealing, but it (for me anyway) comes at a cost. The original Zen has a definite bump at 2 kHz which brings both vocal harmonics and also guitar overtones quite far forward, and at louder volumes can border on being too sharp.  The Zen V2 loses a bit of sub-bass, but presents the mid-range in a much more even and cohesive manner.  It is never sharp (even at louder volumes) and this is some of its magic.
 
As far as fit goes – I know some will find they need to use foams, and unfortunately if you do this with the Zen V2, you will kill the tonal balance.  So if some sort of cover is necessary for comfortable use – then I’d recommend sticking with the original Zen.
 
The Zen V2 is more spacious sounding than the original Zen (a combination of not using the foams plus having more tonal balance I think).
 
Build is similar in quality – but the Zen V2 does have a slightly better cable, and aesthetically looks less generic and more premium with its red and “smoky glass” look. It is also easier to drive. My preference is definitely the Zen V2
 
ZenV220.jpgZenV221.jpg
Zen original, Zen V2 and Monk
Zen original, Zen V2 and Monk
 

Zen V2 vs Monk
That I am comparing the two IEMs is a testament to how good the Monk is – especially for the price. In many ways the Monk sounds very similar to the original Zen wit main differences being a little less sub bass, and a subtle shift in harmonic peak from 2-2.5 kHz.  For some reason to me the Monk has always sounded just a little flatter than the original Zen, and when compared to the Zen V2 this is the bit which is a lot more noticeable. The Zen V2 is more vivid, has slightly less sub-bass, but is more open, and more detailed.  The Zen V2 also sounds a little smoother overall and a little more refined in the detail it delivers.
 
Actual build is similar, but this time the Zen V2 has much better aesthetics and cable – but the Monk is easier to drive.  My preference again goes with the Zen V2.
 
COVERS, RUBBER RINGS & GRAPHS
 
Here is where things get a little technical, and where I explain why I use covers on Monk and original Zen, but don’t recommend than for the new Zen V2.
 
zen2vszen1nocover.pngzen2vszen1covers.png
No covers - Zen 1 is anaemic, but Zen V2 is perfect
With covers - Zen 1 much improved, but Zen V2 too bass dominant

 
First up I measured all 3 IEMs naked (no covers), and it is very easy to see why it isn’t a good idea to use either Monk or original Zen with no covers.  Basically the bass is pretty flat, but rolls off very quickly from about 80 Hz down.  Combine this with the comparatively large peaks at 2-3 kHz and 7 kHz and you get a signature which is quite sharp, quite tinny, and not at all consistent with what they are capable of.  The Zen V2 on the other hand has a little mid-bass hump with no covers, but actually handles bass quite nicely, and there is no forward spike in the vocal presence area – so everything sounds a lot more natural.
 
zen2barevscovers.pngzen1barevscovers.png
Just the Zen V2 by itself - no covers essential IMO
The Zen original is the complete opposite
 

So what happens if we put overs on Monk, Zen and Zen2?  Glad you asked. Monk and Zen both have lifted bass which matches quite nicely with the mid-range peak and lower treble peak which are already present in the default signatures.  So basically it gives both earphones more balance.  But what about the Zen V2? It also lifts the bass, and the low bass gets an appreciable lift, but so does the mid-bass. And although the bass curve is now not that far away from both Zen and Monk, the Zen V2 has much lower mid-range and treble peaks, so balance is lost altogether, and it now sounds very warm, very boomy and totally out of balance – not good.
 
zen2vszen1monk.png
 
The final graph shows the Zen2 with covers off and Zen1 and Monk with covers on, and this is why I made the recommendations in the review.  The balance is back.  By all means try the earhooks and also the covers – but Lee and his team use the Zen V2 with covers off, so do I, and ultimately it is the way they were tuned/designed.  However VE will leave you to make the decision for yourself – but hopefully the above will help you understand why the sonics change so much.
 

VE ZEN V2 – SUMMARY

First up I want to take the chance to thank (again) my friend Tamal for the original introduction to Lee, and to Lee for giving me the chance to listen to VE’s entire line-up, for answering my many questions, and for giving me the chance to look at some special stuff which is coming in the future.
 
From the original Zen V2, VE have taken on-board many of the recommendations on how to improve the original Zen.  The generic look has been replaced by a much improved and much classier design which hints more at the quality you can expect of this excellent earphone.
 
And like the original Zen, when you plug the Zen V2 into your DAP and hit play, the magic starts, and it is easy to be blown away time and again with what you are hearing. I’ve let quite a few people listen to this demo pair, and by far the biggest comment I’ve had is simply “wow”, often followed by “they sound like speakers”.
 
Sonically the Zen V2 has a more vivid and brighter (but more spacious) sound than the original Zen, and once again I can only suggest that listening to it is like listening to full sized open headphones.
 
The Zen V2 is this time a little easier to drive, and despite the 320 ohms, can be powered out of most reasonable sources.
 
5 star sound, 5 star value and I would recommend them unconditionally to friends or family. I have not heard a better earbud.
 
FINAL THOUGHTS
 
Rather than list recommendations for tweaks / changes, I thought I’d leave you with a really interesting thought, and a hint that VE must have something incredible coming eventually.  If we look at Buddhism (which must be where VE is going with the naming scheme), then the path to (audio) enlightenment is clear with their range.  You start as an entrant or Monk, and then work through the natural stages toward true enlightenment.  These stages are Asura, Zen and Nirvana.  If the Zen V2 was not complete enough to be given Nirvana status – then the final earbud in this range from VE must be very special indeed.  I truly cannot wait.
AverageDude
AverageDude
Thank you @Brooko for the review, I am now 148 USD lighter because of you (and other reviewers) :wink:
There is one thing that intrigues me: I do not consider myself as a basshead and loves linear response (as long as the music remains engaging). However, despite what you and all other reviewers have written, I need the light foam covers to sound best - no "adornment" make the earbud unlistenable to (gives me a headache in a matter of 10-20 seconds); maybe it is due to my ear anatomy... Have you tried the light foam covers, or the dense one.
As long as I'm happy with the earbuds - which I am - I don't think I need to overthink about it, but I still find it intriguing...
Brooko
Brooko
We will have different sized and shaped outer ears.  I may get a better fit and seal with no covers, meaning I will get more bass naturally.  You may need covers to achieve the same sort of fit. With earbuds especially - there is no right or wrong, no single solution :)
AverageDude
AverageDude
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